Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Classical Reform?

Back in the day, when my parents were young and, to some extent when I was young, Reform Judaism looked different than now.  There was a sense, and my parents wholehartedly believed in this, that Judaism didn't have to be so weird and foreign.  It could be modern and meaningful to 20th century America.  No more of that weird traditional mumbly Hebrew stuff with funny looking undergarments.  Nope, that kind of practice had no place in the modern age.  And maybe, the tremendous losses of the Holocaust, nailed the door shut as so many practitioners of these traditions were gone, erased, disappeared, never to return.

And we, who survived or came after, could not learn directly for them.

Now, the pendulum has long since returned.

This was from the Temple newsletter in 1910 where Rabbi Samuel Koch fiercely laid out Reform Judaism as he saw it.  And the Temple conformed to his vision.  None of that weird-oh stuff.

The Temple de Hirsch represents Reform Judaism.  The Judaism that has been ‘reformed’ is Orthodox Judaism.  Orthodox Judaism is the exponent of traditional Judaism.  It endeavors to perpetuate the institutions that have come down to it unmodified in any particular.  If modification set in, Orthodoxy is at once metamorphosed into Reform.  Reform Judaism implies a deviation from tradition.  This deviation may be in the form of modification and of abrogation or of addition.  All changes whatsoever introduced by Reform have been in the direction of ritual simpleness, of doctrinal adequacy, of intellectual satisfactoriness, and of aesthetic intensity; and have been made on the grounds of present needs and present efficiency. The Judaism of Temple De Hirsch represents the soul craving of those Jews who believe that conformity need not spell consistency, and that neither need be the root of the flower of righteousness; that the spirit of an institution is both superior and wiser than fealty to its form; that religion is subservient to life and not life to religion, accordingly, in every present age, must so adjust itself to the spiritual needs of that age to afford the greatest spiritual satisfaction to its devotees, and at the same time evolve, the highest form of living, the noblest type of character, and most exalted ideals of practical righteousness.

He loved that bold stuff.  Also, he was such a scold.  On the top he admonished the congregation

Friday night.  Make no engagements. pay no visits, give no parties - Go to Temple.

You can hear his voice throughout.

I don't think that many would buy this vision of Judaism .... maybe some.

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