Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Wars of the Jews, cont.

Garnel wrote a nice comment. I had so much to say it became another post. Whoops.

Garnel writes:
Here's what I see as the fundamental difference between the Orthodox and the non-orthodox.The Orthodox ask: how can I be a good Jew? Let me open up the halacha books and find out.The Heterdox ask: how can I be a good Jew? Well, my values include X, Y, and Z so I'll say that those values are Jewish values and be a good Jew. 
Now obviously this is not about conscious statements but when you hear heterodox people talking about how supporting gay marriage or unrestricted abortion is a Jewish value then you get the impression that heterodox Judaism is defined as "Here are my values, and I'll call them Jewish". And then an adjective in front appears. 
In addition, there's a branding disagreement. For the Orthodox there's a clear definition of Judaism - matan Torah, one God, supremacy of halacha, etc. Now within Orthodoxy there is a battle being wages over a bunch of peripherals, stuff you identify in your post like the rationalists vs the irrationalists (eg. Slifkin controversy) but the basics are what define Judaism. 
So when someone comes along and says "Well I'm a Reform Jew so I practice Judaism even though I don't believe in Matan Torah" we look over and say "Well that's like saying that Sprite you're holding is really a Coke because you want to have Coke but not to actually buy it.
My response:


Thanks for your comment, Garnel. It's nice to be able to discuss topics like this without things getting too heated.

I think that your description of heterodox Jews is true in some cases. However just like there's a range among Orthodoxy, there's a wide range of what makes someone a heterodox Jew (for the purposes of this discussion I'm separating secular Jews from heterodox Jews, whom I define as people that attend a synagogue at least once a year and/or have membership in a synagogue), ranging from minimally engaged 2-times a year Jews all the way up to heterodox rabbis, and I think most intellectually honest people would be hard-pressed to claim that children can spend eight or twelve years in heterodox Jewish day schools and come out of that not knowing anything about Judaism. You may question the prism through which the information or the message is diffused, and you may be correct that the areas emphasized may not be the same as in an Orthodox school, but you have to at least concede that some heterodox Jews have a basic, even fairly detailed, knowledge of Judaism-- though their interpretations of what "Jewish values" are may differ from many Orthodox perspectives. (I realize plenty of heterodox Jews don't send their kids to day schools, but for this discussion I'd like to talk about them a little bit to at least establish that committed/educated Jews exist outside of Orthodoxy.)

Furthermore, I think it's not unreasonable for people to integrate their Jewish values with other values or causes that are important to them, particularly since there are plenty of areas where modern and Jewish values/principles overlap. Tikkun olam gets a bad rap as being overused, but part of being a good Jew is being a good person, and many mitzvot can legitimately be thought of as "good deeds." We may disagree over the specifics of mitzvot ben adam l'makom, but everyone agrees, at least on paper, that mitzvot ben adam l'chaveiro are important. Visiting the sick, giving to charity, not humiliating others, being stewards of the environment, etc... These are all modern values as well as Jewish ones and I don't see why people interpreting their actions as least partially through a Jewish filter is such a bad thing.

Yes, some people may just take their contemporary values and call them Jewish. On the other hand, people who are more educated and thoughtful about Judaism and its values may be better able to articulate where their modern values and some Jewish values differ. My guess is that any day school graduate who's taken even quasi-serious Talmud classes (which are required among most of them) would be able to give you a list of issues they've encountered in their studies that they find problematic. In some cases people may be opting out of some Jewish practices out of apathy or disinterest or assigning other values Jewish status or significance out of ignorance, but the mere fact of choosing does not indicate ignorance. It can just as easily be the result of informed choice, of learning about Jewish values, finding some in conflict with modern values they sincerely believe in (one major one being egalitarianism), and making a thoughtful decision best aligned with their personal conscience. You can personally disagree with that approach, but it's not fair to dismiss it as just being a case of liberal Jews not knowing what they're talking about.

Now, if someone takes a reductive approach to their Judaism and says that Judaism is solely defined by working at soup kitchens, planting trees or marching for Darfur, then I think that's unfortunate and I disagree with that view as being shortsighted and misinformed-- however I think you can make the same error in the other direction by spending all of your time checking for bugs in your lettuce, exercising your OCD, or studying Talmud to the exclusion of everything else, a-la Rav Elyashiv/Yoel Teitelbaum/Rav Scheinberg. That's part of the reason why though I have a different relationship to halacha, I have a lot of respect for the Modern Orthodox world because they really do attempt to strike a serious balance between two worlds, and I think that balance, to one degree or another, is quite important: The stereotype of Orthodox Jews is that they're overly legalistic and insular, while heterodox Jews are all supposedly super granola hippy types who don't know their Hillel from a ham sandwich. The reason these stereotypes exist is because they illustrate some uncomfortable realities, but that doesn't mean that the stereotypes are reality.

In my case, I fully realize that I do not live a fully halachic lifestyle and have no problem saying so-- part of this is because there are parts of halacha I disagree with, and part of it is that I don't accept halacha as being a fully binding system. By that same token, I also have no problem admitting that there are parts of traditional Judaism I don't follow. The issue, as I see it, is that so many people, particularly institutional leaders (but also laypeople) are so personally invested in their branding that no one is willing to admit that there is not a single Judaism, there are multiple ones. It's a spectrum, and not just a horizontal spectrum, but a vertical one, as well:
Something like this, for the sake of having a visual model.

Do you focus on ritual mitzvot or ethical mitzvot, or do you try to cover all of them to the best of your ability? My firm belief is that people select their priorities and the rest follows suit. Most people do simply not have enough mental, financial, or temporal resources to apply themselves equally in all aspects of Judaism, and if some folks are going to attack Jews who spend their time engaging in activism but don't put a lot of effort into, say, text study, they should have the honesty to focus their next criticism on textually literate Jews who ignore the principles of justice that those same texts spend so much time talking about.

The point is that everybody chooses. People choose what theology they actually believe in, what stuff they pretend to believe in for appearance's sake, and what stuff they just plain ignore. So honestly, part of the issue with branding is not that Reform Jews are maintaining "I'm practicing Judaism;" it's that Orthodox Jews will never admit that Orthodox Judaism is not synonymous with Judaism (TM). That meta-brand, if you will, is bigger than any one movement, even Orthodoxy. I see "Judaism" as being the collective output and worship of klal israel, and so I have no problem acknowledging my Judaism is not Orthodox Judaism-- I've never claimed anything to the contrary-- but I'd never be willing to say "my Judaism is not real Judaism," which seems to be the subtext of what you're saying when you use the example of a Reform Jew saying "I practice Judaism." The reality is all of us are practicing forms of Judaism. The Judaism you have is different from what Abraham had, from what Moses had, from what the Maccabees had, and in some ways, even from what Rashi or Rambam had. Claiming otherwise because you need to believe in an infallible, perfect chain of Torah is the kind of thinking that leads to people saying Moses wore a streimel or that Ever's tent was actually a yeshiva.

I don't believe we're talking about Coke versus Sprite here (which would be something like comparing Judaism and Hinduism). The better model is Coke and Pepsi. Are they both colas? Well the ingredients vary and there are clear differences (at least according to my soda-drinking friends), but even the most rabid Coke/Pepsi partisans have to agree that yes, they're both the same kind of soda. And while I have no problem admitting I'm a Coke and not a Pepsi, I will get annoyed if I start being told that the only true cola is Pepsi and that it's been that way for time immemorial.

(Hmm, for some reason I'm now craving something fizzy...)

12 comments:

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

> The point is that everybody chooses. People choose what theology they actually believe in, what stuff they pretend to believe in for appearance's sake

Well this is the Achilles' heel of Orthodoxy, isn't it? Yes, you are right, we do pick 'n' choose just like the Heterodox. Look at the rioters in Beit Shemesh or the seemingly never ending parade of frum criminals that make the news. What they've done is violate halachos just like any heterodox Jews. So really what makes them Orthodox? What's the difference between "us" and "them" in those cases?
I would suggest the following: rationalization. Ask any Orthodox Jew and he'll tell you theft is wrong. Then when you ask him why he stole from 'x' he won't say "Well I don't hold by the halacha that forbids stealing". Rather he'll say "Well it was okay in this situation." Now, his reasoning might be (and usually is) completely faulty based on selective reading, etc. but he doesn't deny the underlying prohibition, just that it doesn't apply in this case.
The heterodox Jew who is eating bacon, on the other hand, will say "Well I just don't think it's wrong" or "I'm more worried about ethical rules". He doesn't rationalize but denies the underlying prohibition.
That's the main difference between Orthodox and heterodox picking and choosing.
Sadly, the "nafka mina" is that when a heterdox Jew does something wrong it's usually not a huge deal and almost never leads to harm to others. The opposite, and the corresponding high level of chilul HaShem, tends to occur when Orthodox Jews break the rules. Isn't that ironic?

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

> I don't believe we're talking about Coke versus Sprite here (which would be something like comparing Judaism and Hinduism). The better model is Coke and Pepsi. Are they both colas?

Sorry, forgot to add this in before.
I disagree with your analogy. For me, Judaism and Hinduism is like apple juice and cola. My point is that, just like the Coke, the Sprite has the fizz but it lacks the dark colour. Coke and Pepsi would be a good example of the difference between, for example, Religious Zionism and Chareidism.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Garnel,

That's a lovely description of the philosophical differences between Ortho and heterodox. I quite like it. Whether it's just the language or the clarity, your phrasing makes it even more surprising to me that so many people get so worked up over sect differences (though I understand why those who hold that Torah and halacha are literally true can be so threatened/challenged/frustrated by people who hold different opinions on the mesorah).

I'm impressed by the level of complexity we've been able to give our soda analogy. I think I need more time to chew (or sip?) it over before I firmly declare which soft drink best exemplifies my sect of Judaism.

It's a refreshing (!) pleasure to be able to talk about this so frankly while still keeping civil. I tip my fedora (yes, I actually wear fedoras) to you.

david a. said...

You write well, if not a bit verbose. I must, though comment on this statement.

>>>> The reality is all of us are practicing forms of Judaism. The Judaism you have is different from what Abraham had, from what Moses had, from what the Maccabees had, and in some ways, even from what Rashi or Rambam had. Claiming otherwise because you need to believe in an infallible, perfect chain of Torah is the kind of thinking that leads to people saying Moses wore a streimel or that Ever's tent was actually a yeshiva.

I am sorry, but Reform Judaism is not a form of Judaism. History has defined what is the religion referred to as “Judaism” and its basically a set of practices (maybe some beliefs??) based on the interpretation of an ancient book called the Torah (i.e. the 5 books of Moses). Anything else is simply NOT Judaism.

Reform Judaism is a religion started by Jews who wished to retain some practices from this book. That does not make it Judaism. It happened before, remember Christianity.

Oh and by my definition, Abraham certainly, and maybe Moses, did not practice Judaism. The Maccabbees however did. As did every other sect down until recent times.

Reform Judaism will disappear as Jewish in a few more generations, Conservative Judaism is already dying (as it is “nisht ahin und nisht a hare”). the question is what is the future for traditional Judaism, as it has many of its own problems.


Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Thanks for your comment David!

I am sorry, but Reform Judaism is not a form of Judaism. History has defined what is the religion referred to as “Judaism” and its basically a set of practices (maybe some beliefs??) based on the interpretation of an ancient book called the Torah (i.e. the 5 books of Moses). Anything else is simply NOT Judaism.

Reform Judaism is a religion started by Jews who wished to retain some practices from this book. That does not make it Judaism. It happened before, remember Christianity.


While you're certainly right that Reform Judaism's practice (and some of its philosophy) differs from Orthodoxy, the comparison to Christianity falls short. Reform Judaism does not consider itself a separate religion from Orthodoxy, and does not demand that anyone not observe mitzvot. Other than the halachic status issue, someone could go from a Reform shul on Friday to an Orthodox one on Saturday and not have an issue. Put another way, when in your view does a religion practiced by Jews cease to become "Judaism" (TM)? What's the line?

I would say it comes down to perspective. If one believes Orthodoxy is the unified standard, then I can see your argument (though I think it goes too far, at least at this point). If you believe it's a point on a historical spectrum, as I do, the picture is not as clear. I doubt supporters of either view will have much luck convincing their counterparts on the other side, and I for one am ok with that.

Reform Judaism will disappear as Jewish in a few more generations, Conservative Judaism is already dying (as it is “nisht ahin und nisht a hare”).

As I said, I've long stopped worrying about these issues. I can't determine the future of these institutional bodies. All I can do is work on me, my family, and my community, and hope that more people of my generation find ways to become connected to the tradition-- no matter what venue that may come in.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

> when in your view does a religion practiced by Jews cease to become "Judaism"

Easy. A lack of belief in Matan Torah. A lack of belief in the Divine authorship of the Torah. A lack of acceptance of the authority of the Shulchan Aruch in daily life.

We're dealing with very different definitions here. For the heterodox being Jewish is an ethnic state of being. One is born Italian and doesn't have to do anything to maintain one's Italian-ness. Same thing for Judaism. As a result Reform can say "Well we're dumping pretty much everything Jewish we can but we're still Jews!" This does not work from an Orthodox perspective which is nationalist - you are a citizen of Judaism and to maintain your good standing as a citizen you must be obedient to the national laws and standards.

Think of it this way: Chrisianity is a large group of religions (Catholicism, Protestantism, etc) that all have a shared belief that God had a son who died for their sins. The heterdox understanding of Judaism is that we are a large group of religions (although the heterodox insist on the word 'streams' but whatever) that all have a shared belief that He didn't. That single shared belief not enough to make us all one big family.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Garnel- I think I see where you're coming from but think the division is still a little more fluid than you're giving it credit. (I'm also unconvinced that there's such a big difference between Judaism as ethnicity and Judaism as nationality, but let's let that go for the moment...)

So let's say you're right and we essentially have two different religions now. Where do we go from here? In the worldview of the Orthodox, can we have a Jewish People (TM) that includes those not observing "the" Jewish religion? What about secular Israelis, for example?

david a. said...

>>>>> Reform Judaism does not consider itself a separate religion from Orthodoxy,

It’s irrelevant what it considers itself. History will pass judgment. The early Christians considered themselves Jewish as well.

The question for now is: is there a definition of Judaism and what is it? Again, in my view, history answered it as: a group of people following practices based on interpretations of the Torah. No other group called its religion Judaism. That leaves out Reform Judaism and secular Israelis. Would you say that the lifestyle of secular Israelis is Judaism just because most of them are Jewish.

Further, how does one define Jewish? To me, again, the answer is related to history. If for 2500 years the group of people identified as Jews, defined themselves as Jewish based on matrilineal descent or conversion by a recognized court then that’s the definition of a Jew. My neighbor, born a non-Jew and never converted, might want to consider himself Jewish. So, even if he practices Judaism, is he Jewish? Which speaks to the fact, that in time, Reform Jews will not be accepted as Jews because of their lack of fealty to the traditional definition of Jews or conversion practices. Note: I do realize that in reality the issue is quite complicated.

>>>> Put another way, when in your view does a religion practiced by Jews cease to become "Judaism" (TM)? What's the line?

Every organization, whether it’s a country, religion, or even your local golf club is defined and governed by a constitution and laws evolving from this constitution. In life all such constitutions generally have mechanism for amendments and hence alterations to its laws and practices. The Torah is the constitution of Judaism. Its interpretation inform the laws and practices (and maybe beliefs??) of Judaism. That being said, I do realize that it’s very much in dispute how amendments were, and are to be, made. But, certainly complete abrogation of the “constitution”dissolves the organization and the result is something new.

So, what’s the line?? Or the way I would ask it is: Given that there is not a clear mechanism for amending the “constitution” and hence laws and practices, how much of the Torah can be stripped away or added to, without the result not being Judaism.

Since the Torah failed to clearly define the “line”, I have to admit, I don’t really know, and to a certain degree you are correct, in that, under such conditions, the criteria becomes very flexible. But, while I do not know where the line actually is, based on the historical development of Judaism, I can certainly indicate where it might, at a minimum, be.

Off the top of my head ….
A form of Judaism would consist of:
1) Core elements consisting of- (a) belief in a Creator who relates to His creation and also has a special relationship with the Jewish nation (or the nation believes that it has a special relationship with its Creator. (b) Torah (5 Books of Moses) as its "constitution", to be interpreted by the nation's scholarship. (c) Fealty to Truth.

2) Core practices that (a) serve to define its Identity. (b) that help perpetuate its history (c) that actuate a uniqueness or “kedusha” meaning the nation’s differentiation from others, and actions that show its devotion to its Creator (d) that consist of high levels of morality, being defined as all those required actions and/or forbidden activities as understood by rational man to maintain and improve its society.

On this basis, it’s difficult to accept Reform Judaism as a legitimate form of Judaism.

BTW, You’ll obviously note that I’m not all that Orthodox in thought.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Hi again David,

It’s irrelevant what it considers itself. History will pass judgment.

Clearly, but why do you assume that the only historians will be Orthodox? :) History is not magically objective; Graetz's view of Hasidim differed from Buber's, and Buber's differed from Dubnow's, and Scholem's, and so on. The historian offers interpretation; not ironclad empirical truth, particular on such a subjective subject as religion.

Again, in my view, history answered it as: a group of people following practices based on interpretations of the Torah.

But heterodox Jews do that too; they just use different methodologies and interpretive assumptions than the present incarnation of Orthodoxy, whose own beliefs, you may recall, took many generations to be "set in stone." Yes, you can always make the slippery slope argument, but even the Orthodox don't believe every item in the Torah is meant to be taken literally, if they did then we'd all be Karaites (except, of course, for the Reform Karaites).

Would you say that the lifestyle of secular Israelis is Judaism just because most of them are Jewish.

I would say that I don't believe that there is a singular Jewish lifestyle (even among the Orthodox; just compare Religious Zionism to Hasidism, for example), just as, IMO, there is no singular Jewish religion. However my larger point/question was whether you can be considered part of the Jewish people even if you do not believe in or practice Orthodox Judaism. Do you consider secular Israelis to not be Jewish? If yes, what makes secular Israelis Jewish but not secular/heterodox American Jews?

If for 2500 years the group of people identified as Jews, defined themselves as Jewish based on matrilineal descent or conversion by a recognized court then that’s the definition of a Jew.

But isn't that made more problematic by evidence that this codification was part of a very long process? I'm not contesting that this is the Orthodox standard now, just pointing out the issue. By this standard, Moses' kids wouldn't be Jewish.

Which speaks to the fact, that in time, Reform Jews will not be accepted as Jews because of their lack of fealty to the traditional definition of Jews or conversion practices.

Correction: they will not be accepted as Jews by the Orthodox. I don't deny that this split is in process, just pointing out that the Orthodox do not hold a monopoly over what is objectively termed "Jewish" or "Judaism." Yes, if in 300 years the only Jews left are the Orthodox, then I suppose the grand experiment of our time will have failed and the history books will record Reform, Conservative, et al as just another doomed offshoot like the Essenes. But we're not there yet, and I refuse to accord Orthodoxy the degree of authority it and you seem to assume it's owed. I respect it as being part of our tradition, but that doesn't invalidate every other approach.

As far as your list of requirements... I have to say, having spent time in quite a few heterodox shuls, I'd argue that quite a bit of these criteria do show up, in various ways. The emphasis or interpretation may vary from the Orthodox approach (or rather approaches), but I've certainly heard plenty about God, covenant, Torah, and truth in various Reform and Conservative places I've frequented. I've also encountered plenty of emphasis on history, some on identity and uniqueness, and certainly a lot of discussion on morality. I don't know what information you're judging heterodox Judaism on, but my personal experience suggests that the differences are in degree, not kind.

david a. said...

>>>> Clearly, but why do you assume that the only historians will be Orthodox.

I wrote history, not historians.

>>>> But heterodox Jews do that too;

Conservative Judaism, maybe, not Reform. That’s my point. Conservative Judaism (at least the original group from JTS and their followers) would, by my criteria, be a form of Judaism, as were the Sadducees and the Karaites and many sects that have gone by the side. I certainly never stated that only the Orthodox, which as you very well state later, is not one version of Judaism, but many.

BTW, I would not considered Orthodox by my fellow Jews, as I don’t believe in the 13 Principles. Certainly not Torah from Sinai (I.e. that God authored the Book we call the Torah.). But that doesn’t change the fact that I believe Judaism is THAT religion which is founded on a scholarly interpretation of the Torah.

>>>> However my larger point/question was whether you can be considered part of the Jewish people even if you do not believe in or practice Orthodox Judaism.

I think you are confusing two issues, (1) Judaism and its practitioners (which, I repeat, is NOT restricted to Orthodox Judaism) and (2) the Jewish People. The two are NOT equivalent.

(1) Judaism and its membership are as previously defined.

(2) The ancient definition of the Jewish People has been lost. Maybe in the future, being an Israeli citizen under some kind of Jewish rubric or any Jew as an adherent Judaism will make one a member of the “Jewish people”. For now, it’s undefined.

Here are few additional points, certainly not recognized by the traditional types, that back up my 2 categories.

(a) Jewish People. Historically (biblical times) this was the Israelite nation (tribes) and one was not able to "convert" to the Jewish People, its was a national identity. As for joining the Jewish People, women joined if they married a male member of the People. Men could not join. Non-Jews were accepted as residents in the land of Israel, but not as members of the nation. The concept of “Ger” is an invention sometime during the late Second Temple period. By “conversion”, it meant you could convert to the religion,Judaism, not to the Jewish People.

(b) Judaism, in my thinking, commenced with the acceptance by a goodly portion, maybe even a majority of the Jewish people, of the first version of the Torah (which I believe consisted of the Book of Devarim) occurring around King Josiah time. And it continued to be expanded with additional practices and textual additions to the Torah until canonization somewhere in the 3 or 4th Cent. BCE.

Prior to that, going all the way back to “Abraham”, there was the Israelite People. They did not practice Judaism. I don't believe there was one unique form. Maybe a tiny minority of the nation practiced a religion similar to what ended up in the Torah.

>>>> Do you consider secular Israelis to not be Jewish?

Not Jewish, except if their mother was Jewish, but as with Reform, they will be less and less Jewish.

>>>If for 2500 years the group of people identified as Jews, defined themselves as Jewish based on matrilineal descent or conversion by a recognized court then that’s the definition of a Jew.

david a. said...

>>>> By this standard, Moses' kids wouldn't be Jewish.

That would be correct, but they were part of the Israelite nation because their father was.

>>> Correction: they will not be accepted as Jews by the Orthodox.

OK.

Let me ask you this. Say a group of Americans, maybe even jurists or accepted legislators, don’t like the fact that American citizenship is not broad enough, so they pass a law (extra-legally) which says that anybody sporting an American flag at his house and pledging allegiance to it daily can become an American citizen. I accept that definition (I’m Canadian) and apply for a U.S. passport on this basis. What do you think will happen?
I see this silly analogy as the same with Reform Judaism. You can insist that your Judaism is valid, but it lacks continuity (platform statements Link: http://ccarnet.org/rabbis-speak/platforms/statement-principles-reform-judaism/ aside) which is the basis of all organizations and their laws.

>>> then I suppose the grand experiment of our time will have failed and the history books will record Reform, Conservative, et al as just another doomed offshoot like the Essenes.

Exactly what experiment are you referring to?
In response, kindly answer me. Why does a Reform Jew want to be Jewish?

>>>> But we're not there yet, and I refuse to accord Orthodoxy the degree of authority it and you seem to assume it's owed.

Not owed. Simply a fact of history, and as I said, not necessarily Orthodoxy, but presently, the various forms of what is labeled Orthodoxy are all that’s left from the many sects.

>>>>> I respect it as being part of our tradition, but that doesn't invalidate every other approach.

And what argument does validate this “other approach”?

>>>> As far as your list of requirements... .... I have to say, having spent time in quite a few heterodox shuls, I'd argue that quite a bit of these criteria do show up, in various ways.

And the fact is that many of those people who take these seriously tend to drift to the more traditional shuls.

>>> but my personal experience suggests that the differences are in degree, not kind.

Maybe…but I’m old enough that my personal experience is that Garnel’s basic premise on commitment is true, by and large.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Hi David,

I wrote history, not historians.

And my point is that much of history is presented through its interpreters' perspectives. The line "history will pass judgment" doesn't mean much since history isn't a single authoritative entity.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I believe Judaism is THAT religion which is founded on a scholarly interpretation of the Torah.

My impression is that people in the Reform leadership do follow scholarly interpretations, though I concede that this methodology/philosophy may not be as widespread among laypeople.

I think you are confusing two issues, (1) Judaism and its practitioners (which, I repeat, is NOT restricted to Orthodox Judaism) and (2) the Jewish People. The two are NOT equivalent.

I'm not confusing them; however I do think both that there's a relationship between them, and what I find odd is that very few people championing Orthodoxy as the standard for Judaism and defining other movements out of the Jewish tent seem to consider this other element of Jewish identity.

I see this silly analogy as the same with Reform Judaism. You can insist that your Judaism is valid, but it lacks continuity which is the basis of all organizations and their laws.

The key difference I see is that Judaism is not a country, but a personal identity/religion/peoplehood stew. Furthermore, since we don't have equivalent authority figures in Judaism (no single President or council recognized by everyone, for instance), all the issues of identity essentially come down to who's willing to accept who on a personal or institutional level. (Except in Israel, of course.)

Exactly what experiment are you referring to?

The experiment of a Judaism whose first principle is personal autonomy and not the "yoke of mitzvot."

Why does a Reform Jew want to be Jewish?

You'd have to ask one :) My broad guess would be something about wanting to remain connected to the tradition and identity. Now if you ask why they want to be a REFORM Jew, that might lead to a whole other discussion.

And what argument does validate this “other approach”?

Well for one, the fact that the founders we all venerate (Patriarchs, etc) clearly weren't practicing the Judaism we know today. For another, the fact that there has always been a plurality of practice and belief within Judaism. Not to argue that anything goes, but that there is precedent for a spectrum. Some would say Reform, et al have gone beyond the spectrum. I might suggest that the goal-posts of the spectrum have moved post-Enlightenment and the scientific age.