Sometimes people do things that are so inconsistent with their stated beliefs that you have to shake your head. Two examples the Jewish media recently carried were Eric Yoffie's address to American Muslim organizations and the other is Arnold Eisen's plans for his tenure as leader of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Eric Yoffie, as many know, is the head of the Hebrew Union College and the de facto leader of Reformism. Now, whether one agrees with the principles of that faith or not, it is undeniable that they hold secular liberal values to be the guiding principles they live by. Things like a restricted diet, limitations on personal activities on certain days of the week and a mandatory dress code of any kind are anathema to them. His recent address to the Islamic Society of North America, however, is something that flies in the face of that.
On the surface, Islam, especially militant Islam, is somethat that the Reformers should oppose vigorously. It is a religion that believes in the separation of women in worship and public life, the limitation on women's rights, persecution of homosexuals, the imposition of a justice code that includes beheading and limb amputation as a punishment for various crimes and a habit of blowing up its enemies in a most unseemly fashion.
Certainly when it comes to Judaism, Reform has not let down its guard. It functions as the vanguard against any attempts by Torah observant Jews, both real and imagined (but mostly imagined) to impose halachah on the majority of the Jewish population that chooses not to observe it. Why then does he choose to suck up to the leadership of a religion (remember, CAIR and ISNA both have ties to Hamas and Hezbollah, our good friends) that opposes everything Reform holds sacred?
The answer comes from Dennis Prager, a journalist who was held up by Yoffie during his address as an example of a servant of the the true enemy, intolerance:
Slander, morally equating fundamentalist Christians with fundamentalist Muslims, and respecting women who "voluntarily" wear veils: What the left has done to liberal denominations within Christianity and Judaism is a moral and religious tragedy. For example, liberal churches that regard America and Israel as villains have inverted Judeo-Christian morality. But little exemplifies the moral decay of the religious left as does its replacing Judeo-Christian moral standards with multiculturalism and tolerance. It has led to one of its leading clergy announcing that the veil is worthy of respect.
Only slightly less fatuous is the recent interview Arnold Eisen gave upon assuming command of the sinking ship known as Conservatism. Here's a movement that's in big trouble. Their numbers are declining, their outgoing chancellor told them they're apathetic and listless, and in reponse they've made it an article of faith to deny anything's wrong! Eisen shows this very clearly through his answers which show that any hope of the Conservatives regaining some kind of intellectual edge of the sort they once possessed decades ago is gone. Consider his ideas on the concept of "mitzvah":
Instead he wants Conservative Jews to think more deeply about the notion of mitzvah -- a term normally described as a “good deed” or “commandment,” but which Eisen says is really a much richer idea. He has urged rabbis to talk about the concept in their High Holy Days sermons, and he intends to pilot a mitzvah project in 10 congregations to get Jews talking about what they feel obligates them.
As Bug Bunny once said, "it is to laugh". What they feel obligates them? Boy, I wish someone in med school had given me that option. What do I think I need to know about medicine? Is this a prelude to the gutting of the already weakened rabbinical curriculum? Is Eisen worried that people see a disconnect in their relationships with their rabbis that can only be cured by removing any advantage those rabbis have in terms of education? If a congregant chooses what obligates them, why do they need a rabbi in the first place? Does he have jobs for all his shortly-to-be-unemployed clergy?
His statement on the future direction of education at JTS is suggestive:
He intends to spark conversations within the movement, facilitated by JTS, in place of "canned lectures." And he believes being a Conservative Jew is largely about what journalists -- and Jews -- love most: talking.
Listen, the old men that come to minyan in my shul also sit around talking. They talk and talk, and never really accomplish anything with their verbiage. Maybe this is an admission on Eisen's part. Conservatism is about empty talk and no real Jewish action.
But it's this final point that caught my attention, coming on the heels of the Yoffie article:
He also plans to promote dialogue between Jews and Muslims similar to the Jewish-Christian dialogue begun by Louis Finkelstein, the seminary’s legendary leader from 1940 to 1972.
What is this obsession liberal Jews have with Islam? It opposes everything they believe in. A dialogue with them can only end with their admitting that Islam is a "great religion" that should be admired, although they could look in their own religious backyard and find an even richer, more honest tradition, one they've been purposefully ignoring for over a century. This is their greaet loss and a sign of their stupidity.