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The Jewish outlook. (Denver, Colo.) 1903-1913, August 05, 1904, Image 2

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn91052361/1904-08-05/ed-1/seq-2/

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of Judaism and religion. That atheism
and agnosticism is rampant among
them goes without saying. Their only
salvation so far as allegiance to the re
ligion of their fathers is concerned, is—
Reform Judaism.
Reform Judaism is not less hut more
of Judaism. This is the truth, the full
truth, and nothing but the truth, strange
as it may sound to the ears of many. Of
course, if the practice of the more than
thirteen thousand laws and injunctions
of the Shulchan Aruch would indeed, as
honest orthodoxy believes, constitute
Judaism, then reform could not mean
more but less of Judaism. Again, if re
form would mean nothing more than the
abrogation of the validity and authority
of Talund and Shulchan Aruch. then our
assertion would not be justifiable. But
such ideas of Reform Judaism, although
held by not a few rabbis, are erroneous.
For, if this notion of reform were true,
then Reform Judaism would be only a
repetition of the movement started eleven
hundred years ago by Anan, the found
er of Karaism. The Karaites, who
still exist to-day in the Crimea and
southern Russia, recognize only as bind
ing the laws of the Thorah, the Penta
teuch or five books of Moses, but reject
the Rabbinical laws of the Talmud. This
movement was, however, far from being
progressive, retrogressive, reactionary in
the extreme, and favors blind idolatry
of the letter, stagnation and decay. To
give an instance, No matter how cold it
is, the Karaites sit freezing on the Sab
bath because the Mosaic law forbids to
make fire on the day of rest. As this
prohibition extends to the manservant
and maidservant, there is no way for the
Karaite to have warm rooms on the
Sabbath. They also sit in darkness for
the same reason on the Sabbath, which
the prophet Isaiah calls “Day of Pleas
ure.” (Oneg.)
Reform Judaism is the most progres
sive, most liberal, most reasonable phase
of our religion. It is the Judaism of the
old Hebrew Prophets, plus the accept
ance of the results of modern science,
and contains therefore all the elements of
the future religion of civilized mankind.
Reform Judaism is the religion of hu
manity, hence it most emphatically op
poses the idea of a Jewish nation or
race, and can, .if consistent, have no pa
tience with Zionism, which advocates a
return of the Jews to Palestine. For
such foolish doctrine plays only into the
hands of anti-semitism, which claims
that the Jew cannot be a patriot in the
land in which he lives.
For already in the first conference of
Reform rabbis, held sixty years ago, in
1844 in Braunschweig, Germany, it was
unanimously resolved that the Jews of
the Occident have ceased to be a nation.
This meant, as it means now, that the
Jew of Germany is a German, the Jew of
France a Frenchman, the .Jew of Eng
land an Englishman and the Jew of
America an American first, and a Jew by
religion, afterwards, just as is the case
with the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyter
ian and Congregational ist. We have
ceased to be Palestinians or Zionists
nineteen hundred years ago, and do not
want to be Palestinians and Orientals
to-day. Particularly this free country,
in spite of its drawbacks is good enough
for us. Reform Judaism regards the
Bible merely as literature, and therefore
accepts only its spirit, and not its letter,
lienee it is in the position to espouse
higher criticism. For its principles need
not fear the calcium light of scientific re
search and of free, untrammeled investi
gation. A Darwin, a Spencer, a Hux
ley and Tyndall, a Haeckel, a Helmholtz,
a Dubois Raymond, a Wellhausen, a
Kuenen, a Gunkel and other leaders of
physical, geological, sociological and Bib
lical science, can go on in their bold criti
cisms and discoveries of new ideas, un
molested by Judaism. The long ex
ploded theory, that where science begins
religion must cease, might have its appli
cation regarding dogmatic religions and
creeds. Judaism is not creed but deed,
not faith, but conduct, not dogma but
life, not a dead letter, but a living spirit.
Judaism is well compared by our sages
in the Talmud to water, to a flowing
river, and not to a stagnant pool. The
theory of evolution is demonstrated
by the multifarious stages and phases of
Judaism during the four thousand years
of its existence. The form changed and
will change, but the essence and kernel
are immutable, imperishable, eternal like
God. “For.” exclaimed Isaiah. “As lit
tle as I the Eternal changeth, just as
little will Israel perish.” Isaiah. Micah.
Jeremiah, Hillel, Joclianan, Ben Saccai,
Maimondies, Ibn Ezra Saadiali Spin
oza, Mendelssohn and fleiger. each and
every one of those leaders of Judaism in
the different epochs of its checkered his
tory stand for different phases of Juda
ism, and yet, Judaism in its spirit is the
same as it ever was. All those great
teachers are in themselves conclusive
proof of the truth of the theory of evo
lution in the domain of Judaism and re
ligion. Judaism took the best from
every civilization without however,
thereby losing its identity.
It would lead us too far to enter into
the details of the Jewish Reform move
ment which was started, not in America,
but almost eighty years ago in Germany.
Those interested in the movement can
find all about it in my book. “Reform
Judaism and its pioneers,” (1892). As
to the status of Reform Judaism in this
country there is no better guide than the
platform of the rabbinical conference of
Pittsburg, held there in 1886.
Suffice to say. that only those Jews,
who conscientiously observe all the thir
toon thousand laws and ordinances of tho
Sulchan Aruch have a right to oppose
Reform Judaism. All those who do not
observe these laws, are, to say the least,
most inconsistent by opposing reform.
In this country therefore, there is no al
to-native for the Jew other than either
no Judaism at all or Reform Judaism.
For nobody can honestly deny that there
is no orthodox Judaism in this country.
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