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January 05, 1996 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-01-05

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

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ocal Jewish leaders agree positive force in building respect
that the ideas promulgat- and recognition of Jewry and the
ed by Rabbi Alexander value system with which we
Schindler, the spiritual and live."
John Kamins, president of
nominal leader of the Reform
movement for the past 22 years, Temple Beth El, views the
will reverberate well into the changes initiated by Rabbi
Schindler as progressive, in-
21st century.
But even if they all praise cluding allowing women to train
Rabbi Schindler's devotion to as rabbis.
civil rights and his
ecumenical efforts to
unite the Jewish and
Christian communi-
ties, one believes the
impact of one of the
rabbi's most contro-
versial ideas will
have a splintering
effect on the Jewish
community.
Rabbi Schindler,
the retiring execu-
tive director of the
Union of American
Hebrew Congrega-
tions, gave his last
major public speech
in Atlanta in No-
vember. His legacy
is defined in part by
a liberalization of
Reform thought.
Mark Schlussel,
former president of
the Jewish Federa-
tion of Metropolitan
Detroit and an Or-
thodox Jew, said he
is "troubled" by the
idea of patrilineal
descent as another
way for people to
claim Jewishness.
Jewish law tradi-
tionally adheres to
matrilineal descent
as the determining
factor of one's Jew- Rabbi Schindler: A visionary.
ishness. The Reform
movement, under
"There is a large proportion of
Rabbi Schindler's leadership, ex-
panded the definition to include families today where only one
"anyone whose father is Jewish, parent is Jewish by birth. I think
it's enlightened not to have gen-
even if the mother is not.
"We're creating two Jewish der distinctions. I think Reform
peoples. Somebody who pre- Judaism is on an appropriate
sumes himself to be Jewish course to treat all Jews equally,
based upon a precept in the Re- regardless of gender, and it
form movement is not an ac- makes just as much sense for
ceptable mate for somebody in our rabbinical leaders as in any
the Orthodox or Conservative other respect," he said. -
The hallmark of Reform Ju-
movements. Because of the dif-
ferentiation of patrilineal and daism is its elasticity; it is al-
matrilineal descent, we have cre- ways changing, "and it clearly is
ated a level of confusion within where the mainstream of Re-
our society which I think will form Jews wish to be today," Mr.
have a long-term deleterious ef- Kamins added.
Rabbi Daniel Syme, who will
fect in our seeking unity as a
assume the pulpit at Temple
people," Mr. Schlussel said.
And yet, he added, Rabbi Beth El in July, considers Rab-
Schindler "was an extremely bi Schindler's greatest mark on

the movement to be his outreach
efforts to non-Jewish spouses of
Jews, whether they have con-
verted to Judaism or not.
"There are now tens of thou-
sands of couples and their chil-
dren who've been drawn into
Jewish life as a result of an
aggressive (outreach) program,
education and general program-
ming for these
families," he
said.
Rabbi Syme,
senior vice
president of the
Union of Ameri-
can Hebrew Con-
gregations, said
personal reasons
led him to with-
draw himself
from the selec-
tion process for
a successor to
Rabbi Schindler.
Rabbi Eric
Yoffie, whom he
called "extreme-
ly capable and
bright," will take
over the presi-
dency.
Allen Tush-
man, the presi-
dent of the
Metropolitan
Detroit Federa-
tion of Reform
Synagogues,
Rabbi
called
a
Schindler
"great president"
who "was able to
take strong posi-
tions on serious
issues and yet
was able not to
-offend people in
the process." He
singled out the
rabbi's outreach efforts to inter-
faith couples and his espousal of
patrilineal descent as the two
most significant and positive
changes in the evolution of the
Reform movement.
Mr. Tushman said roughly
20,000 of the 96,000 Jews in the
metropolitan area are affiliated
with Reform congregations. Na-
tionally, the number of Reform
congregations grew by 100 over
the past 10 years, making it the
largest-growing organized Jew-
ish religious movement in the
country, he said.
"I can't tell you exactly why
it's growing more than the oth-
ers. I would like to think it's be-
cause we're more welcoming to
people," he said. ❑

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