Flowers left outside the synagogue
Photo: AFP
In life and in death: Reform Jews and Conservatives Jews are Jews
Op-ed: In life we scorn them, seeing them as 'non-Jews' and 'assimilators,' but in death we embrace Reform and Conservative Jews. What makes the Jews in the black body bags different to those praying and singing not long beforehand?
In the search for jarring clichés to describe how we feel, nationally and personally, in times of crisis and trouble, we spare no words. We saw an example of this when the news broke about the horrific murder of our Jewish brothers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Out of the great, genuine pain Israelis felt when learning of the tragedy, rivers of warm and embracing words flowed. The Israelis—secular and religious, traditional and ultra-Orthodox—competed among themselves over who could embrace our wounded and slain brothers across the ocean more.



It was a moving, emotional moment. A moment that reminded us of our people's ability to come together. A spectator from another country, another nation, likely looked in awe as he watched the Jewish people's spectacular display of love, regardless of one's Jewish denomination, his type of kippah, or the intricacies of one's belief.


Funeral of brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, who were murdered in the attack (Photo: AFP)
Funeral of brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, who were murdered in the attack (Photo: AFP)

The problem is that these moments are rare, very rare even. And in general, they only serve as a mask to cover our true face, which is far less nice and smiling, and certainly a lot less embracing, caring and accepting. Because on regular days—and you already know this, even if you don't feel like hearing this now—Israelis treat our Conservative and Reform brothers, who make up the great majority among US Jews, as a form of traitors. Traitors who abandoned Judaism and the ruling Orthodoxy in Israel and are sailing on the smooth waters of the contemporary pluralist Jewish world.


Outrageous and disrespectful treatment

It's doubtful there is something that annoys a large part of Israelis more than those "non-Jews" who dare, heavens forbid, decide for themselves what's best for them, what's allowed and what's forbidden, and how exactly they want to enjoy the Judaism that belongs to all of us. Because how dare they, those assimilators and insect-eaters, to call themselves Jewish? What kind of rabbi gives interviews on the Shabbat? And who said they're allowed to call their houses of worship synagogues? Did they even open Shulchan Aruch before setting the foundations for the structure and putting up the curtains for the Holy Ark?


Memorial to the victims outside the synagogue (Photo: AP)
Memorial to the victims outside the synagogue (Photo: AP)


Even in the difficult moments, and perhaps especially in the difficult moments, the truth must be said, in a clear voice—so they may see and perhaps change their ways: On ordinary days, when there the bodies of our brothers are not lying on the ground and there is no blood painting the floor red, the treatment of those exact same brothers is outrageous and disrespectful. They are "non-Jews," they're "assimilators," and they're "gentiles." We don't want them, won't hear them out, and we're even less interested in giving them a seat at the big and magnificent table of Judaism. We embrace them in death, but push them away in life.


The cries that accompanied the horrific images coming out of the scene of the attack were genuine, there's no argument over that. Those who felt sorrow and pain, really did feel it. But what makes the dead Jews in black body bags different to the Jews who were on their feet praying and singing their songs not too long before that? And why is it so easy for us to scorn them, push them away and keep them far from here as they celebrate life? Why is it that we are incapable of accepting our brothers when they're happy, dancing and praying, but embrace them with tear-filled eyes when they're no longer with us?


Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at event in memory of the victims (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld)
Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at event in memory of the victims (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld)


It's hard to explain this dissonance, as it's not in line with any line of reasoning. After all, what logic is there in the fact we're willing to give up on our brothers who wish to be part of us in their own way, while at the same time we're rushing to show them how important they are to us when they're no longer with us?


There is no logic. And this is the tragedy we should be talking about. Because Reform or Conservative Jews are Jews. Always. In life and in death. To ensure we don't lose them and only remember to cry for them—and also for ourselves—when something terrible happen, we must take advantage of the Pittsburgh attack not just for introspection, but also for action. And in action I mean the elimination of the Israeli-Orthodox superiority over Judaism in 2018, replacing it with bridges of love and friendship, cooperation and unity. In life as in death, in good and in evil, in the complex and in the simple. Always.


פרסום ראשון: 11.07.18, 09:32
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