Fifty years ago and earlier, these movements could operate with what I will call subtractive Judaism. They could take the existing set of traditional beliefs and decide what practices to relax, modify, or eliminate. For example, the Reform movement in the 19th century could switch from Hebrew to English (or German) in prayerbooks. The Conservative movement in the 1950s could liberalize some of the stringencies of shabbat and kashrut. But in both cases, they were starting with people who observed, or at least were familiar with, the traditional way of doing things.
That is no longer true. A substantial percentage of people in Conservative and Reform synagogues simply do not have any substantial knowledge of Judaism. They have not read the Torah, have no idea what it says, have not read other traditional texts, do not daven, do not attend services, do not keep any level of kashrut, do not know about most rituals, and do not know about, let alone observe, most holidays other than Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, and Passover. The challenge facing the Conservative and Reform movement is not what tosubtract from traditional Jewish practices. It is what to add to no traditional Jewish practices.
Identifying low-hanging mitzvot to increase observance
On May 20, 2009 in Uncategorized
David A.M. Wilensky, Proprietor
- My latest (JTA): ‘For Reform, new gay-friendly High Holidays prayer book keeps up inclusivity trend’
- My latest… sort of (jweekly.com): ‘Reform rabbis get first gay prez’
- My latest (The Forward): ‘Doughnut Meets Babka in Latest Pastry Mashup’
- My latest (JTA): ‘Reform rabbinic group installs its first openly gay president’
- My latest (Gothamist): ‘Ira Glass Tries His Hand At Improv Comedy’