Why pluralism is amiss: Orthodox rabbi speaks out

Pluralism has a special appeal to those raised in the democratic ethos of the USA. It seems to be "fair," "tolerant," "open-minded." To those committed to the halachic tradition, "pluralism" disguises deviant behaviors, many of which are anathema to Torah law and custom. In its current usage, the appeal for pluralism in Judaism is an attempt to legitimize Reform Judaism and its derivatives, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism. "Reform" is a century-old experiment in adapting Judaism to the demands of modern society. After a hundred years, it is time for a summation and evaluation of this experiment:

*Reform Jews alone among the great religions deny the Divine origin of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses.

*Sixty-plus percent of their children marry outside our faith, often with a Reform clergyman officiating.

*Jewish law, since its revelation at Mount Sinai, defined a Jew as one born to a Jewish mother. Reform redefined a Jew as one born also of patrilineal descent, diluting its membership with non-Jews in order to bolster its thinning ranks.

*By rejecting the Jewish laws of divorce, they have split our nation into two biologically distinct groups. If two groups sharing the same ecological niche cannot interbreed, they become two distinct species. By refusing to accede to the plea of Orthodox leadership to require a Jewish divorce (get), they have raised the specter of mamzarus (bastardy) over every child born to a woman who remarried. Neither these children nor any of their descendants can ever marry within the Torah-true community.

This irrational disdain for Torah law and for its adherents has led to an irrevocable split in our nation. Did Reform Jews really believe that they would "dance on the graves" of Orthodox Jewry so that they need not factor in the Orthodox community in their calculations? Sadly, tragically, they stand mute at the graves of their children's Jewishness.

*Reform conversions are but a sham. By Torah law, a convert must agree to observe all laws and customs of traditional Judaism. Since Reform rejected all of the mitzvot of our Torah, the movement does not require converts to be more pious than the clergymen who convert them to a Judaism without Jewish law and custom.

*Their clergy can profess to be nontheists, denying the existence of a God. The only god they honor is autonomy.

*In violation of the morals and ethics of Torah Judaism, they have declared the gay lifestyle an acceptable alternative to the heterosexual family lifestyle, and gay clergy as legitimate religious functionaries.

*They have declared nonmarital sex as a matter of personal conscience, not a sinful act. Indeed, what religious tradition that has given up on morality has not found its way to oblivion?

Incredibly, there are those who identify themselves with Orthodox Jewry, yet support the demand for pluralism in Israeli society. They intentionally blur the demarcation lines between Judaism and secular humanism. Their efforts to legitimize Reform marriage and conversion cast doubt on their own commitment to the halachic process which is the essence of Torah Judaism.

How can they ignore the decision of history that Reform has been an abject failure when measured by Jewish survival? Reform has been responsible for the disappearance of millions of Jews since the end of World War II. Demographic expectations were not realized because their children married out and their grandchildren left us for a Christian faith, an Eastern cult, or they simply dropped out and no longer identify with any religion. No rationalizing can turn away the accusative finger of history and the devastating charge: "Reform leadership, you have failed the God and people of Israel and must suffer never to participate in the majestic destiny of am Yisrael [the people of Israel] unless you return to the faith of your ancestors."

Reform is no longer a Jewish faith. Its agenda is that of liberal-left secular humanism. The laity who comprise the Reform movement are beloved, estranged Jews who drifted away from the beliefs and practices of Judaism. We simply cannot suffer the loss of the majority of surviving Jews. The survival of any species requires a minimum critical mass.

We must hope that the pluralism debate may yet serve a useful purpose. It will inform the laity who have identified with the Reform movement of the true ideology and moral standards of this failed experiment. When so informed, they will surely not consent to substitute liberal-left secular humanism for Judaism even if they lack the discipline for full halachic commitment.