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The Conservative and Reform Ideology

The Conservative and Reform Ideology

Letter & Spirit - Personal and Public Correspondence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Send Us Your Letters Letter & Spirit - Personal and Public Correspondence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

By the Grace of G‑d
15th of Tammuz, 5719 [July 21, 1959]
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

In reply to your inquiry as to whether or not there has been any change in my stand toward the affiliation of orthodox Rabbis or synagogues with the New York Board of Rabbis or Synagogue Council -

I wish to assure you that there has not been, nor could there be, any change in my stand on this vital and far-reaching question.

My considered opinion, as I have reiterated it on several occasions privately and publicly, is based on the undisputable Halachic decision formulated by Rambam (Hilechot Teshuvah 3:8), according to which the doctrines and ideology of the Conservative and Reform movements can only be classed in the category of heretical movements which have plagued our people at one time or another, only to disappear again, having no basis in our everlasting Torah, Toras Emes, Toras Chaim.

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I have clearly stated my view that membership in the New York Board of Rabbis, or Synagogue Council of America, or similar religious bodies, strikes deeply at the roots of true Judaism. Such membership cannot escape the logical inference that the Conservative and Reform movements are recognized by the orthodox members of the said bodies as belonging within the fold of true Judaism, differing only in degree or in minor details; whereas in truth these movements deny the very basis of true Judaism. Protestations to the contrary can only be regarded as empty words, refuted by actions.

May G‑d enlighten the eyes of those that still waver on this vital question, to remedy the situation without delay. I hope and pray that everyone, both Rabbi and layman, will use his utmost influence in that direction.

With blessing,
M. M. Schneerson

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Rabbi Shmary Brownstein April 12, 2013

Re: Heretical movements? Labels are for clothes, not people. A Jew who does a mitzvah, studies Torah, or loves G-d, is a wonderful Jew, not a reform or orthodox Jew. But while being Jewish is not contingent on the beliefs one professes, JudaISM has a specific definition. What can be considered a Jewish idea and what cannot, is defined by Halachah and by Jewish belief historically. While there may have been times when certain beliefs were less defined, we stand now at a point in time when there are thousands of years of tradition that have defined Jewish notions in a specific direction. There were many sects during the Second Temple period, but it does not follow that they were all valid expressions of the Torah tradition. While one may hold a personal opinion about what the definition of Judaism is, the Rebbe here addresses what Judaism has been historically, not what it might have been. Had G-d meant it to be Sadducean, then they would have won out as the definers of Judaism. Reply

Zachary Lee Jakobs Pleasant Prairie April 9, 2013

Heretical movements? I am confused by your choice of words, Mr. Schneerson.
Had the Temple of Herod not been destroyed, would the scholars who had written the Talmud not been called heretics? Is it untrue that during the Roman occupation of Judea the Sagisees, the Zealots, the Pharisees, and the Essenes proclaimed each other to be heretical?
Judaism is not a faith built around Dogma, it is a faith dedicated to study, inquiry, joy, work, kindness, and most of all a love of G-d. I myself am a member of the Reform movement, though I choose to follow G-d's commandments more faithfully than my fellow members of the movement. I study Talmud, to gain a personal understanding of Torah, and I study Torah and Haftoroh to find both spiritual and historical meaning.
I do not believe that to be a Jew one must devote their lives to such study, and that perhaps not all commandments must be so vehemently followed. I believe love of G-d, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim are most important.
I am reform by principle not by faith. Reply

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