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December 08, 1995 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-12-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

... those fanatics who presume to
know with a certainty whose
prayers are and are not accept-
able (to God). And I certainly ex-
clude from my embrace those
religious extremists who, in Is-
rael, as well as from within the
safe haven of these shores, de-
ify land over life and sanction the
murder of peacemakers.

Peter Yarrow: Led a children's chorus.

"But that does not mean every
Orthodox Jew is an extremist.
Let's not demonize them and
hold all responsible for the luna-
cy of a few," he said.
Yet, Rabbi Schindler took clear
aim at Judaism's Religious Right
in his sermon and at points
throughout the five-day meeting,
dismissing those who depict Re-
form Judaism as something less
than authentic. "Reform is the
adjective that defines my Ju-
daism, and I wear its badge with
pride," he said. "I deem Reform
to be more authentically Jewish
than contemporary Orthodox lit-
eralism. We Reform Jews feel
free to diverge from tradition; we
accord Halachah (the body of
Jewish law) a vote but no veto.
"Halachah was frozen some
centuries ago in the name of self-
preservation, when our people,
confronted by the repressive pow-
ers of Christendom, were made
to bind the community by tight-
ening the links of codification.
Our task is to defrost the Ha-
lachah until it is once again sol-
uble in human tears, human
blood, human reality."
A hint of what lies high on the
agenda for Rabbi Schindler's suc-
cessor — UAHC President-elect
Eric H. Yoffie — came when an
Israeli couple who were denied
marriage in their homeland ex-
changed vows before thousands
of delegates. Rabbi Yoffie, who
served as executive director of the
Association of Reform Zionists of
America (ARZA) from 1983-92,
beamed from beneath the chup-
pah as Rabbi Schindler invoked
the marriage berachot (blessings)
on the couple.
The bridegroom, 31-year-old
Yair Cohen, is a kohen, a de-
scendant of the ancient priestly
tribe; the bride, 26-year-old Ruth
Florsheim, is a divorcee.
In Israel, the Orthodox have
sole authority over marriages of
Jewish citizens. Halachah pro-
hibits a kohen from marrying a
divorcee. Moreover, civil mar-

riage does not exist in Israel, and
weddings performed by Reform
and Conservative clergy are not
recognized.
It is common for Israeli Jews
who are either prohibited from
or choose not to be married in an
Orthodox ceremony to travel
abroad to be married. Upon their
return, under Israeli law they are
recognized as married.
The Association of Re-
form Zionists of America
hand-selected Mr. Cohen
and Ms. Florsheim as its
poster couple for their reli-
gious pluralism campaign,
transporting them all-ex-
penses-paid to Atlanta to
draw attention to the plight
of similar couples and to
blast Israel's Orthodox pow-
er structure for its restric-
tions on other Jewish
branches. It was a extrava-
gantly crafted made-for-me-
dia event, videotaped for airing
on Israeli television news.
The couple, the subject of print
and electronic news in Israel for
months and who had a "non-
marriage" ceremony performed
by a Reform rabbi in September
on their kibbutz, willingly sur-
rendered their privacy to assist
ARZA in exchange for the trip.
"I use them; they use me," said
Mr. Cohen, who, like his bride, is
an army veteran. He works as a
kibbutz kitchen administrator in
Yirkum, 60 miles from Tel Aviv.
"I choose this life, and I choose
this girl," he said minutes after
the ceremony at a press confer-
ence during which the telegenic
couple held hands and spoke qui-
etly, yet resolutely.
They said they did not fear
reprisals in Israel when they re-
turn from their honeymoon in the
United States. "I'm not worried,"
Mr. Cohen said, adding he was
"actually looking forward ...to the
reaction of the charedim (Ortho-
dox)."
Adding to the fray was Yair
Tsaban, Israel minister of immi-
grant absorption, who, following
the ceremony, punctuated the air
with an impassioned endorse-
ment for pluralism and a swipe
at the perceived Orthodox in-
transigence of "Orthodox leaders,
some of whom have yet to emerge
from the Middle Ages, and would
like to pull us back to those dark
days."
Clearly, as Rabbi Schindler
steps aside for a six-month sab-
batical, clearing the way for his
successor, he outlined the Reform
movement's next audacious cam-
paign. "The Reform rabbinate
will no longer be negated in Eretz
Yisrael ," he sermonized. "We
have the right, nay, the obliga-
tion, to demand that our rabbis
and our institutions be extended
equal standing, authority and en-
dowment in the Jewish State. We
ask this not as a favor, not as an

REFORM page 20

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19

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