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A "Silent Majority" of Reform Jews

Stephen L. Naman
Summer 2001

The following letter from Stephen L. Naman, president of the American Council for Judaism, was sent to The Forward on May 28, 2001, where it was published.  

Dear Editor:  

In your May 25, 2001, article "Scholar, Israeli Activist Lead Field To Head Reform College" you refer to the role of the head of the Reform Jewish movement as the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. While I would agree that the UAHC is certainly the largest organization of Reform Jews and that the position of president of UAHC is one of great authority and responsibility I would suggest that this not be viewed as fungible to the role as head of Reform Judaism.  

Demographers regretfully tell us that there are a sizable number of Jews, including many Reform Jews, who are unaffiliated, and when combined with what I believe many would agree is a "silent majority" within the membership of many UAHC congregations, as well as those also within UAHC congregations who might not find unanimity with UAHC positions and philosophies, I would question whether we can say anyone is the "head" of Reform Judaism?  

I do not raise this issue in conflict with the UAHC, for they surely have an important role to play, but instead as a cautionary note that no one should forget that American Reform Judaism was I believe founded on the philosophy of free expression of ideas, beliefs, and practices; and no one can speak for all American Reform Jews. We should remain mindful that as individuals American Reform Jews have many different philosophies and perspectives, and that while it is regrettable that more do not participate in the process, we should not presume that any of these constituencies acquiesce to any single representation. Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler wrote over a century ago, "For as soon as the intellect is rendered arbiter in matters of religion, there must be diversity of opinions."  

Stephen L. Naman
Charlotte, NC
American Council for Judaism

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