One notable example is Frances Hess
, who is a trustee of Temple Emanu-El in New York City, probably the largest Reform congregation in the United States, with well over three thousand families.Mrs. Hess
has been a Reform Jew for four generations.In fact, her
grandfather attended the conference in Pittsburgh in 1885 when the first Reform Jewish platform was adopted.
That platform was radically anti-traditional.It proclaimed that we should abandon all Jewish laws that regulate diet and dress, meaning kashrut and the wearing of head coverings and prayer shawls.It went on to say that these practices originated in other types of environments that are altogether foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. The Pittsburgh Platform also stressed ethics over ritual and made social justice the centerpiece of Reform Jewish obligations.She
claims that the anger is so great that she
heard one individual say that if this document is passed, she
is joining a Unitarian church.Hess
herself calls the proposed principles a drastic leaning back toward traditionalism..Mrs. Hess
is also a member of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, our Reform rabbinical school.She
mentioned that, at ordinations, she
secretly cheers on the new rabbis who decide not to wear yarmulkes.She
insists that there is dignity and meaning to the more classical (Reform approach) and not that the more tradition and ritual, the better..
At first, I could not really fathom the reasons for the hostility of many long-time Reform Jews to the proposed platform and to Rabbi Levy's photograph.This platform merely reflects a trend that is becoming increasingly strong even in formerly Classical Reform congregations, a trend that has proceeded seemingly without any outward opposition in recent years.I thought it had become a non-issue.In Temples where once yarmulkes were forbidden on the bimah or in the pews, now an increasing number of Reform rabbis wear them inside and outside of the Temple, and they are even provided at the door.
Where once chanting of Hebrew texts was banned in the Reform temple, in many congregations congregants are now chanting not only the Torah blessings, but also prayers like the Veahavta and the opening paragraphs of the Amidah.