Friday, July 20, 2007

The Limists of Inclusivism

Ah, the ways of the universe. This afternoon I wrote a mild rebuke to the spirit among our Orthodox brothers who believe, like the Klausenberger rebbe, that "compromise" between Jews is tantamount to heresy, and that true compromise should be done in a spirit of respect, not coercion or triumphalism.

Soon after I finished davening in a Reform shul this evening (check it out soon on Too Cool for Shul) I happened to come across the summer issue of Reform Judaism Magazine (not the catchiest title, I agree, but at least you know what it's about- hint, hint, Jewish Action). And guess what they had on their letters to the editor page?

I am deeply disappointed by yoiur series of articles promoting kosher wine as defined by Orthodox institutions. The rules of kashrut pertaining to wine are antithetical to our principles as Reform Jews. Do we want to be drinking wine that cannot be touched by non-Jews because of the ancient assumption that non-Jews are idolators?

Other than personal taste or nostalgia, I can see no reason for Reform Jews to purchase kosher wine, and several reasons not to.

Rabbi Justin Jaron Lewis,

Wow. Touche, universe.

Ok. Let's try this slowly. First, I agree with the rabbi that the "goyim can't touch the wine lest they sneak a quick sacrifice in to Zeus" rule is stupid. That said, I would claim that most of kashrut is pretty stupid, if you don't believe in it. That's sort of how hoks work. Yet, last I checked, the Reform movement wasn't trying to lead anti-kashrut campaigns or bash shechita.
There is no more reason to get up in arms over "endorsing" kosher wine (by offering kosher wine reviews) than there is in endorsing kosher slaughter by reviewing, say, Katz's Deli. If anything, Reform Judaism magazine should be praised for not assuming that no one in its readership gives a fig about kashrut, which allows them to claim maximum inclusiveness both within their movement as well as any other potential allies from other denominations.

If Rabbi Lewis has a problem with kosher wines (and the occasionally nutty details of said), he should be invited to write a rant urging people to rethink the system, maybe even institute a counter- (or superogetory) kashrut system, not unlike what's presently being advanced by some MO and Conservative groups in America and Israel (even the Jewish Press seems to like it. Well, kind of.) But the problem is not kashrut as a concept. Or, at least, it doesn't have to be. Like everything else, kashrut can be adapted and repurposed or reinvented, with the same kind of original thinking Reform Judaism is supposed to not only cherish, but exemplify. But Rabbi Lewis' kosher wine chip shouldn't determine movement policy, lest Reform actually become the stilted caricature its opponents like to present it as. If Reform really wants to reach out beyond its own ideological fiefdom, and I think it should, addressing a hypothetically mizvot-observant reader is an excellent start- even if that pisses off liberal zealots within the movement.

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