Another type of split is emerging in the more liberal Reform wing of Judaism.
While the divisions in many Christian bodies often take shape between more liberal church leaders and clergy and conservative laity, the opposite is the case in Reform. The Jerusalem Report (Feb. 1) notes that the split is taking place between an increasingly traditional Reform rabbinate and a liberal lay membership.
Much of the conflict was brought to a head when a draft of a new denominational platform, entitled “Ten Principles of Reform Judaism,” was released that endorsed Torah study, Sabbath and Kosher observance and other ritual practices such as the use of the mikvah bath.
Heated opposition to the document from laity and some rabbis pressing for maintaining the classic Reform emphasis on universalistic ethical practice (rather than ritual observance), has probably shelved the platform for now. But the division is likely to remain, largely because the traditional movement has found a strong following among many seminarians. Hebrew Union College in New York is the “undeclared headquarters” of the traditional movement.
HUC students keep kosher and other rituals and their demand for “traditional text courses” are forcing administrators to consider changing the curriculum. Lay leaders are reported to be shocked by this development. One lay person was reported to say, “If this (the new Reform platform) is going through, I’m joining a Unitarian church.”