Monday, November 21, 2005

Reform "Leader" Weighs In On Hitler, Gays & Charedim

Reform leader slams religious right-wing

The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said "religious right" leaders believe "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person."

"What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God?" Yoffie told a friendly audience of about 5,000 in his keynote address during the movement's national assembly in Houston, which runs through Sunday.

Yoffie used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals. He said he understood that traditionalists have concluded gay marriage violates Scripture, but he said that did not justify denying legal protections to same-sex partners and their children.

"We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933 one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."

The Union for Reform Judaism represents about 900 synagogues in North America with an estimated membership of 1.5 million people. Of the three major streams of US Judaism - Orthodox and Conservative are the others - it is the only one that sanctions gay ordination and supports civil marriage for same-gender couples.

Yoffie's lengthy speech first addressed several other issues, and his criticism of conservative religious activists came in the middle. The audience was largely sedate until Yoffie reached that topic and responded with repeated, enthusiastic applause.

Yoffie did not mention evangelical Christians directly in his speech, using the term "religious right" instead. In a separate interview, he said the phrase encompassed conservative activists of all faiths, including within the Jewish community.

Yoffie said the activists have little understanding of the liberal religious community, which he insisted also grounds its beliefs in biblical teaching. "We study religious texts day and night, but we have no direct lines to heaven and we aren't always sure that we know God's will," he said. "We bring a measure of humility to our religious belief."

Yoffie said liberals and conservatives share some concerns, such as the potential damage to children from violent or highly sexual TV shows and other popular media. But he said, overall, conservatives too narrowly define family values, making a "frozen embryo in a fertility clinic" more important than a child, and ignoring poverty and other social ills.

"When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy," Yoffie said, urging a renewal of religious tolerance in the United States. "We need beware the zealots who want to make their religion the religion of everyone else."

One attendee, Judy Weinman of Troy, New York, said she thought Yoffie was "right on target."

"He reminded us of where we have things in common and where we're different," she said.

Yoffie also urged lawmakers to model themselves on presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, who famously told a Houston clergy group on the campaign trail in 1960 that a president should not make policy based on his religion.

On other topics, Yoffie asked Reform synagogues to do more to hold onto members, who often leave after their children go to college. He also said the Reform movement, which is among the most accepting of non-Jewish spouses, should make a greater effort to invite the spouses to convert to Judaism.


Anonymous sechel said...

A dmagogue par excellence.

Monday, November 21, 2005 6:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yoffe is pathetic he is grasping at straws

What about Tikun Olam?

Monday, November 21, 2005 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

Sad state of the world, when Jews throw around the Hitler word at fellow Jews.

Monday, November 21, 2005 7:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yoffie suffers from a deep inferiority complex. The only thing the Reform leadership has that gets people excited is when they bash Orthdodox Jews. They make stuff up about the Orthodox, portray them as "mean spirited" and so on. They have nothing else to focus on.

Monday, November 21, 2005 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"im b'chukosai timasu - lo lamad, lo asah, mo-es es ha-acheirim, sonei es ha-chachamim, mon'a es ha-acherim, kofer b'mitsvos, kofer b'ikkar."

The Reform movement got that right.

Monday, November 21, 2005 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enough with your fixation on previously published gay matters. It's boring! Let's get back to Rabbis, Yeshivas, scandals...

Monday, November 21, 2005 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

OK, whatever you say!
Any suggestions?

Monday, November 21, 2005 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yoffe is a nervous wreck because in 20yrs his guys will either be goyim or they will stay within gender

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 12:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which is more exciting, the sexual lapses of our leaders or their financial indiscretions?

Follow the polls.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 8:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy is on a sinking ship, he
is in a panic mode. The orthodox are thriving,while the reform are dwindling so hes looking for a scape goat, the orthodox.He can not mention the "bible belt" people, its too politically incorrect. But the orthodox are free to be bashed.What a pathetic
display of a self hating jew, thats if he is really jewish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 9:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All he'll have left is gay congregants with negative birth rate. Its not a good way to keep a movement going.But membership dues have to come from some where,it
might as well come from the gays.This guy needs his salary to be paid, otherwise he'll have to work for a living.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

Yoffe is dangerous, only because so many of his Reform brothers are influential in the political arena, and have friends in high places.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are not "achicha hu?"

Only his?

Many Reform Jews are innocent. In America, synagogue affiliation, if motivated by a need for a lifecycle parties, is based more on convenient carpools than doctrine. The same is true for Conservative Jews. They are social institutions. Reform's numbers are artificially up because of their "steppingstones" programs - outreach to intermarrieds. Only ten percent of intermarrieds affiliate, studies have found. The non Jews don't care about Orthodox Jews. They aren't really Jewish anyway and don't feel committed.

But, for uoj to write them off as "his brothers" - other than self hating Orthodox bashers like him - shows a lack of sensitivity and/or ahavas Yisrael which this blog is dedicated to increasing by bashing all the phonies and bs roshei yeshiva and bs everybody else - except me.

I said it, and I feel better. I am great. A bigshot.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger Un-Orthodox Jew said...

I stand corrected on this one, should have used "comrades"....
Now that you're feeling better, where do I send the bill?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 2:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

daddy will pay the bills.

thank you, tati.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger urallsheep said...

oh please OUJ, the shame is that jews, the most discriminated people throughout history, continuously do so under the banner of religion, thats a shame!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 1:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

right. The Reform Jews discriminate. The Orthodox discriminate. Conservative Jews are egalitarian; they can't discriminate.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 9:25:00 AM  

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