Union for Traditional Judaism.
I was fascinated in my reading of the recent special report in The Economist about the growing movement toward post-denominational Judaism. For those of our faith who are moving past institutional distinctions, it’s not about whether you’re Haredi, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist, but whether you’re on the path of Teshuvah.
My first exposure to this approach came through Chabad in Beijing, and radio personality Denis Prager also openly practices a trans-Denominational form of Judaism, incorporating the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements in his life.
But there are more sparks of the movement, and one of them is the Union of Traditional Judaism, a group whose beliefs fall between Conservative and Modern Orthodox articles of faith. The group seems interesting, but I wonder whether it is trying to hew a road between Orthodox and Conservative, or genuinely attempting to transcend such distinctions. I sincerely hope it is the latter.
The Economist, in its recent special report about the Jews, “Alive and Well,” offers us an interesting – and I think defensible – chart of the key points of belief and practice, delineating where the similarities as well as the differences lie among the four major denominations – Haredi, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. The guide offers some interesting insights into the faith, and it raises some others into each of us. After looking over the list and seeing how that made some sense, I then gave myself a test. Where do my own articles of faith lie?
- On the Source of the Torah, I agree with both Orthodox denominations in that I believe that the Torah was dictated by G-d to Moses;
- On the Authority of Halacha, I find myself between the Modern Orthodox and the Conservatives: life is regulated by halacha but that halacha can evolve to a degree;
- Similarly, on Ritual and Practice, I’m with the Modern Orthodox in that they are regulated by halacha, but that there is room for evolution;
- On Zionism and Israel, however, I am torn. I generally support Israel, but I am troubled by the State’s handling of the settlements issue.
- On the Definition of Jewishness, I am between the Modern Orthodox and the Conservative position, but mostly out of selfishness – I want to be considered Jewish, but my mother did not convert according to halacha and I am not yet ready to take on the full scope of the Mitzvot.
But enough of this navel-gazing.
The article raises much more meaningful questions: are the differences between the denominations as great as we believe? Are they always a matter of choice, or are they a matter of upbringing? Do not each of the movements and denominations serve a purpose? Should we take a more holistic approach to our faith? Is it time for us to knock down the walls that divide the denominations?
Inter-denominational dissing is too prevalent, and we forget too easily that bBaseless hatred cast us out of Israel. Is it such a leap to think that it is, the continuing presence of Jew-on-Jew strife that keeps Moshiach away?
One of the things that inspired me about Chabad was how the rabbis, while clearly Orthodox almost to the point of haredi, refused to classify themselves as such, and profess a point of view that says “all Jews are the same.” If they can do that, why can’t the rest of us?