T oday’s Reformers in Israel are not just demanding to worship how they want, they’re insisting that the rest of us consider their denial of all that we consider Divinely mandated as a legitimate alternative — while a century ago, they tried to destroy every traditional kehillah that stood in their path

Last week, I told you about a conversation I had with a friend — well, maybe it was more like an argument — regarding the inroads the Reform movement is trying to make at the Kosel, as they try to poison the souls of their own congregants with their divisive propaganda. My friend, who is a natural peacemaker and has the beautiful middah of live-and-let-live, didn’t really want to hear what I had to say, and as we parted, I debated whether to give him up as a lost cause or pursue the discussion by phone. In the end, I decided to write him an e-mail, which I would like to share with you:

MY FRIEND, I HOPE YOU’VE GIVEN some thought to the recent discussion we had at the Kosel, and I hope I was able to dispel some of the fog around the true essence of the movement we were discussing. And now I’d like to tell you about the true aims of that movement. Their fondest aspiration is to destroy the delicate fabric of life in Israel.

You don’t believe me? You think I’m judging them much too harshly? Being paranoid? Then pay attention to what I’m about to tell you.

The Reformers are demanding equality at the Kosel. They demand this as their right by virtue of the tenets of modern Western culture, tenets that we Israelis are quick to adopt as our own. These are the values of equality, pluralism, diversity, “live and let live,” and all the vogue words tossed about in the public space like sacred mantras. Truth is, I agree with them. Under the rules of democracy, they deserve the same right to adhere to the religion of their choice as all the other religions that are practiced and protected in this democratic state. Why should they alone be denied that freedom?

But that isn’t what they want. They are not demanding religious rights. In the name of the great ideals of Western culture, they are demanding legitimacy. They are demanding to be recognized as a valid stream of Judaism, an integral part of the Jewish religion, but with a different interpretation all its own. In other words, I, the Orthodox Jew, am supposed to acknowledge that it’s fine to say that Torah is not min haShamayim — that this, too, is a “valid form of Judaism.” Now how, exactly, would I agree to the “validity” of denying the Divine source of Torah without ceasing to believe in it myself, chalilah? What they’re demanding of me is surrender. To let go of the very foundation of the Jewish faith in order to carve out a spot for them. You tell me: Why should I do that?

At the risk of being repetitious, I want to clarify that this recognition that the Reform movement is demanding in Israel would require me to acknowledge that there is room in Judaism to deny the Divinity of the Torah and the obligation to fulfill mitzvos. They want me to agree that this is a valid Jewish outlook. Yet if I say I agree with that, I am proclaiming that the Torah is not of Divine origin. Obviously, my belief and theirs cannot coexist under the name of Judaism. Yes, they’re free to create their own theology, but they’ve taken it a giant step further. They have the chutzpah to say, “You Orthodox Jews have to recognize us as a sector within Jewish belief, even though we refuse to accept that the Torah has any authority over us, and we deny that it was given by G-d — the core principle of Jewish faith. We view the Torah as a collection of folklore, or as a culture that sprang up somewhere in the sands of the Sinai desert. And we want you to say, ‘That’s okay, too. That’s a perfectly valid expression of Jewish faith.’ ”

Do you see the magnitude of the chutzpah? This means that if I refuse to commit spiritual suicide, then I am responsible for causing a rift in the Jewish nation. Is that what you also say? I would never expect to hear such a statement from you, not even as an offhand remark.

But the chutzpah doesn’t end there. Let’s go back a bit in history to the time when these champions of humanism, equality, pluralism, and the rights of religious minorities were making great strides in Germany and Hungary. When they gained enough adherents to become the dominant force in many Jewish communities, how did they treat the minority who remained faithful to the word of Hashem?

I recommend that you read Professor Jacob Katz’s book, A House Divided. Read about the early leaders of the Reform movement, the spiritual forefathers of those who are now demanding recognition of their legitimacy as a minority stream of Judaism in Israel, and how they persecuted the small remnant of Jews in their communities who clung to their faith in the Torah. Read about how they joined forces with their local governments to stamp out every remaining kehillah of the Orthodox minority. How they silenced every voice raised in opposition, how they squelched every attempt to live by the Torah and its commandments. With their coercive, strong-arm tactics, they forced their new order on everyone within their reach and made a mockery of their own slogans and sermons about the right to be different, each according to his belief.

They succeeded in closing down the shuls of the “rebels” who continued davening in the traditional nusach. They confiscated sifrei Torah and put them away in storage. They closed mikvaos, locked the doors of Talmudei Torah, and saw to it that kosher slaughter was banned. Some Jews even refused to give their sons a bris, while their “rabbi” announced that they were kosher Jews and allowed them to retain their membership in the congregation. All this was done by enlisting the backing of the local authorities.

AND NOW THEIR IDEOLOGICAL HEIRS demand that we surrender to them in the name of the very values that they trampled a century and a half ago, when they denied any legitimacy or even basic freedom of dissent to their brethren who wished to remain faithful to the Torah?

This is why I get so upset when I see that many people like you, an adherent of authentic Judaism, are swayed by their massive propaganda campaign and their high-sounding rhetoric. They are fooling you into believing that harassment is taking place on a grand scale and creating a rift in our people. As distressing as it is, it’s also rather amusing. How many people do you think are officially affiliated with the few Reform congregations in Israel? All of five thousand — less than the number of talmidim in Yeshivas Mir alone, kein yirbu.

Unfortunately, however, they are backed by the secular media and by politicians whose minds are poisoned with the idea that some terrible disaster will come about if these people are thwarted in their aim to impose their destructive will on the majority in Israel.

Destructive? Yes, that’s the word, and im yirtzeh Hashem I will write to you again to fill you in on some of the things going on behind the scenes of routine political activity, and show you how this negligible minority is coming close to the centers of power in Israel — unless they’re stopped. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 677)