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December 29, 1995 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-12-29

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sentially an internal problem" for the Re-
form movement, she said. "From the per-
spective of 1995, I think any solution that
was not a unity solution was a disaster
for the Jewish community. But that can't
take away from anything that he's done
in the learning and teaching."
Seemingly everyone acknowledges
Rabbi Schindler's role as a driving and
driven architect of the liberal flank in
the often chaotic and bruising arena of
Jewish life.
"When Rabbi Schindler set the tone
for certain directions in the Reform
movement, like outreach to the inter-
married and patrilineal descent, it forced
other streams in Judaism to ask where
they stood on these issues," said Rabbi
Joel Meyers, top professional of the Con-
servative movement's Rabbinical As-
sembly. "He'll be remembered as
someone who crafted the agenda for the
Reform movement and who paved the
way for tremendous outreach efforts to
non-Jews and to Jews who are on the
margins of the Jewish community," he
Novelist Anne Rophie, generally lib-
eral in her outlook, said that there will
be "quarrels about the fact that [Rabbi
Schindler] allowed Reform Judaism to
go too far in assimilation." But, she
added, "on issues of communal tensions,
he's been a very reasonable and good
leader. And on issues of Israel he's been
a very important voice of reason."
His work on behalf of Israel regardless
of the government — he was a confidant
of the late Prime Minister Menachem Be-
gin and is an ardent advocate of today's
peace process — has earned him much
admiration in the Jewish state. Acting
Prime Minister Shimon Peres, until
Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, was to speak at the bien-
nial and present Rabbi Schindler with an award. Mr. Peres
addressed the meeting via satellite, instead.
Despite the missiles of animosity often thrown his way

by the non-Reform world, Rabbi Schindler insists that
he has worked to prevent rather than encourage the
demise of Jewish life. His response speaks of his blunt-
ness as well as his passion.

Justin Shane, Jarrett Ettinger, Jeremy Zaks and Seth Gold
in class at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.

The Reform movement prepares for a new brand of leadership.



or the Reform movement, the
baby boomers have come of age.
And they are ushering in a new
era for the country's largest
Jewish movement, one that
seeks a precarious balance be-
tween promoting spiritualism and tradi-
tion while advocating a liberal
social-action agenda and a non-binding
approach toward Jewish law.
At the helm of this is a new generation
of leaders. By next year's end, the direc-
tors who have led Reform's educational,
rabbinical and congregational Reform or-
ganizations since the 1970s will step
The head of the latter group, the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations, is
the unofficial leader of the Reform move-

ment. Into that role walks Rabbi Eric
Yoffie. Although he does not formally be-
come UAHC executive director until
June, the man he is replacing, Rabbi
Alelcander M. Schindler, is on a quasi-
At 47, Rabbi Yoffie is no stranger to
the halls of the UAHC's New York City
offices, which direct the activities of the
movement's more than 850-plus North
American congregations.
A gentle man who speaks his mind,
Rabbi Yoffie joined the UAHC staff in
1980 as director of its Midwest region.
Three years later, he was named head of
the Association of Reform Zionists of
America, a position that he held for al-
most a decade. Three years ago, Rabbi
Yoffie was named head of the Reform
movement's social-action commission. He

also serves as executive editor ofReform
Judaism, magazine.
A voracious reader, he is fluent in He-
brew and regularly peruses the Israeli
press. In addition, he says he studies tra-
ditional Jewish texts several times a week
In an interview, he stressed the need
to embrace spirituality and declined to
discuss Reform's relations with other Jew-
ish groups.
"As the baby boomer generation reach-
es 50, they're seeing that the material-
ism isn't enough," he says. "There's a
yearning for more."
Rabbi Yoffie, who wears a kippah and,
with his wife Amy, sends his children to
Jewish day school, says Reform need not
drop its traditional mandate of social ac-
tion. Rather, it must teach the Jewish
obligation to those principles.

In his first major address since being
named Rabbi Schindler's successor last
spring, he outlined his agenda at a recent
meeting of the Arrierican Jewish Press
"In a period of barely five years, every
organizing principle of Am.erican Jewish
life has been shattered, abandoned or oth-
erwise left behind," he told the journal-
At the same time, his generation,
"known more for its self-indulgence than
its introspection., can no longer postpone
the inevitable... It therefore turns to Ju-
daism, and finds there, one hopes, pur-
posefulness, historical depth, and a sense
of the sacred."

— Neil Rubin

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