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Letter To The Editor

Rabbi Jay R. Brickman
Winter 2000

To the Editor:  

While I do not share Ralph Dombrower's vision of the form that Classical Reform should assume in our generation, I do applaud Issues for making his views known. An unfortunate by-product of the recently published Principles of Reform Judaism, is the suggestion that there is an authentic formulation of what Reform Jews should: think, feel, and do. Such an emphasis makes of our movement another orthodoxy and prompts such desires as Mr. Dombrower proposes for a split in the Reform movement. The effect of this, in my judgement, would be to create a new bureaucracy, whose support would sap energies better expended on the search for God.  

What should characterize us as Reform Jews is an unwillingness to allow any corporate entity, regardless of how illustrious or learned, to identify God's expectations for us. One of the most significant contributions of Judaism to the history of religious thought was the concept of an invisible God. God is real, but any vision of God or of God's expectations must represent a personal determination. In order that this choice may be a responsible one, it is essential that a Jew be familiar with our traditional wisdom, and enter into dialogue with contemporaries who profess alternative visions. The pattern of behavior and belief which emerges from such a process represents an authentic Jewish response.  

The problem that I have with the new Guiding Principles is not that they are unrepresentative of where most Reform Jews stand, but that they are a single formulation. It is my experience that those who understand Reform differently are effectively excluded from synagogue worship. How much more gracious it would be to define Reform as representing multiple views! What would prevent a congregation, particularly a large congregation, from offering various forms of service? The degree of attendance is not a significant factor. If a handful of congregants wish to hold a service using the old Union Prayer Book, they should be encouraged to do so. The Hebrew term for synagogue (as is the Greek) is Bet-Knesset, "house of assembly". Let the policy of individual Reform synagogues differ, and let this policy be not one that is superimposed, but rather a unique product which rises from within! Essential to this debate is that each congregant be heard and that each congregant listens with respect to the convictions of others. It is in such a process that we are best able to understand the nature and will of God.

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