Friday, 16 July 2010

Is Reform Judaism doomed?

Ed: It's not just us, then.

[...] in the UK, a new survey of Synagogue membership shows the Reform and Liberal movements (30 percent) holding steady and, while the strictly Orthodox have doubled in number (to 11 percent) from a low base in the last 20 years, “central Orthodoxy” (the comfy, old-fashioned form of worship and observance favoured by our immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents) is in decline (55 per cent).

Indeed, this September a new state-of-the-art cross-communal Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) opens in north London, proving that dynamism is not exclusively the preserve of an emboldened Orthodoxy.

The truth is that predicting the Jewish future is an unpredictable pastime. For example, who could have envisioned in 1925 that in two decades there would be a hardly a Jew left in Poland, or that 50 years later the Jews would have built a nuclear-armed, regional super-power state of their own?

Orthodox hubris should be tempered by the knowledge that all those who gathered at the “temple” in Seesen two centuries ago to forge a new Judaism had come from and rejected the rigidity of Orthodoxy, as did the millions who in the 20th century helped build Reform Judaism into a powerhouse.

Can the Orthodox be so sure that another Jewish alternative may not, in decades to come, emerge from a fresh schism within their own ranks? Read more

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