Don’t donate to Chabad!

by Maskil on July 28, 2008

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Below is the text of a letter I’ve just submitted to the Reform Judaism Magazine. I’m a bit dubious as to whether it will ever make it into print or not; Reform Judaism is published only quarterly, with just a small selection of letters being included. So, in case it never makes it between the covers of RJ, here it is:

I was shocked to read (Letter from Rabbi Michael M Remson in the Spring 2008 edition of Reform Judaism) that “many Reform Jews donate to Chabad”. In the US they may be more circumspect, but in South Africa and elsewhere, Chabad makes no secret of the fact that it considers Reform Judaism to be Reform, not Judaism. Our rabbis are little more than reform clerics and our converts are quite simply “not Jews”.

The letter also mentioned that “Chabad unabashedly claims to be doing God’s work”, but that’s a claim any TV evangelist can make.

Yes, we should be motivated by the work and the attitude of their Shlichim (emissaries), but we should be motivated to imitate their example, not support it. To my mind, there is no discussion: Chabad is no friend of Reform Judaism, and should not enjoy the support of the Reform community or individuals.

Those within Reform who wish to give to initiatives that reach out to the marginalized or unaffiliated should rather consider supporting the activities of The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the global umbrella body for progressive Judaism in all its diversity. Pioneering congregations throughout the European Union, the former Soviet Union, Israel and elsewhere need our support; financial, organizational and moral.

Have a look at the newsletters on the WUPJ website and, the next time you reach for your checkbook to support outreach to the unaffiliated, ignore pseudo-outreach organizations such as Chabad. Rather make your check out to the WUPJ and stipulate that you’d like to support the activities of Rabbi Joel Oseran, their vice president for international development. I’m sure the URJ has or supports similar initiatives within the US itself.

Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, and I believe we should be imitating (NOT supporting) Chabad’s example when it comes to global outreach. I’m not sure yet how we could achieve this without the cultist mindset of the Chabad Shlichim, but one of the most apparent needs amongst fledgling progressive communities is for trained (and preferably full-time) spiritual leadership, i.e. a rabbi. So, how about setting up a fund for “Rabbis in Remote Places”, to cover the cost of training and subsidizing the remuneration of spiritual leaders for these start-up communities?

Let’s hear from you out there!

Links/Reading/Resources:

Reform Judaism Magazine – Home

Reform Judaism Magazine – Spring 2008

The World Union for Progressive Judaism | WUPJnews

The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Our Newsletter

Related:

Cafe Birkenreis: A Jew is a Jew is a Jew…: You contradict yourself

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