Sunday, May 1, 2011

New leader of reform Rabbis a J Streeter

What's going on with Reform rabbis these days?

Once paragons of respectability, Reform rabbis were not the group you'd look to if you craved controversy. There was the trefa banquet in 1883, and patrilineal descent in 1983 , but overall American Reform rabbis have always been somewhat...dull.

But over the last month, the Reform rabbinate has been at the center of controversy and dinner-table conversation.

On April 1, Daniel Gordis wrote a shocking article in which he described presumably Reform (and Conservative) rabbis-in-training actively repudiating Zionism. Some chose to mourn the creation of the State of Israel on Tisha B'av, while others went to a bar in Ramallah and photographed each other in front of posters calling for violence against Israel.

Last Wednesday, Gary Rosenblatt wrote about the severe unemployment crisis among Reform rabbis, with some rabbis even having to resort to food stamps to feed themselves.

“We’re seeing the end of the rabbinate as we know it,” a 56-year-old Reform rabbi insisted, noting that congregations today are looking for “comfort,” not challenges. “The intellectual tradition of the pulpit has died,” said the rabbi, who asked not to be named out of concern for the prospects for his next job search.

As if that were not enough, the movement is now split over the newly appointed Reform movement leader Richard Jacobs, with a group of Reform congregants and rabbis nationwide taking out newspaper ads against their leader-designate.

The ads say that if Richards is appointed, "mainstream Zionists" will be driven out of the Reform movement. They criticize Richards' involvement in J Street and the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations in Jerusalem. "Rabbi Richard Jacobs does not represent the pro-Israel policies cherished by Reform Jews," the ads say. "He does not represent us."

In response, several prominent Reform rabbis have penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal blasting the ad's "distorted caricature" of Jacobs and saying that its signatories are out of touch with current Zionist norms.

Who do you think is right? And why is there so much controversy roiling the Reform movement these days?

Let us know by writing to us at We'll publish your responses.

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