I’m gonna return now to the Rethinking Reform Think Tank. In the session at LimmudNY 2009 that introduced me to the group, Leon Morris said something that has stuck with me as a more than adequate articulation of something I have long felt.
Previously, I had connected the idea of denominations in modern American Judaism with the old idea of geographical divisions amongst Jews. The idea being that the kind of divisions that existed between groups like Bavlim, Sfardim and Ashkenazim are the type of divisions that now exist between different contemporary Jewish denominations. It is not, by any means, a one to one comparison, but I found the idea compelling nonetheless.
Me being me, liturgy became my main example of this. There are differences between Sfardi litrugy and Nusach Ashkenaz and so on. I recognized that amongst the liberal denominations there was sort of new nusach of prayres developing that included such near-standardized differences as the addition of the imahot, etc. Again, far from a one to one comparison, but compelling nonetheless.
What Rabbi Morris said in the session was this (highly paraphrased): “I see the Reform community as my edah.” Edah was new term to me. It means community or tribe. For example, Syrian Jewry is an edah. Romaniote Jewry is an edah. Ashekanzi Jewry is an edah. And so on. “I know, for example, Syrian Jews, who are very commited to their community, but they also kind of hate all the other Syrian Jews and think that the rest of them are totally insane. I feel that way about Reform. Reform is my edah, for better or for worse.”
Boy, did that strike a deep emotional chord with me.