It’s not often that I want to give thanks to Glenn Beck. But, recently, he really made my life a lot easier. Truly, I’m so glad that Glenn Beck has helped me figure out who I am as a Reform Rabbi. According to a recent radio broadcast Glenn Beck stated that Reform Rabbis are "generally political in nature. It’s almost like radicalized Islam in a way. It’s less about religion than it is about politics… It’s more about politics than it is about faith."
I mean, when I worry about how to spend my time during my week, I now know, thanks to Mr. Beck, that I need not worry about anything having to do with faith, God, spirituality, education, pastoral work, lifecycle events or community-building. Rather, I only have to focus on politics. Phew! That really takes a load off.
But, seriously, folks, it is a shame that so many people listen to this mishegas and that they take it as fact. I would have to assume that many of his listeners do not know much about Judaism, let alone Reform Judaism. When they picture a Jew, they are probably more likely to picture, a) someone with a black hat, long coat, and payos, or, b) Woody Allen. In neither image would they find me.
As a young, woman rabbi, living and working on Long Island, I have the true privilege of spending my time with a dynamic, involved, and loving congregation. They truly take the names of Beit Midrash (house of study), Beit K’nesset (house of gathering), and Beit Tefillah (house of prayer) to heart, and they work hard to offer meaningful experiences and programming in all three areas.
As Jews, we all share the mandate to be an or la-goyim, a light unto the nations. All of the active movements in Judaism involve themselves in various acts of social justice because it is part of the very fabric of Jewish living.
I often find myself quoting Pirke Avot 1:2 at times like these, "The world is sustained by three things: Torah, Worship, and Deeds of Loving Kindness." In other words, study, acts of faith, and acts of social justice. We need all three, and with them, we find balance. Like a three-legged stool, if one were to be taken away, we would topple over.
In the Reform Movement, we are very proud of our involvement in social causes, advocacy, and social action. Yet, to claim that this is all we are is a serious misstatement.
In my daily life, I am surrounded by people with inspiring God-sparks inside of them. Some are seekers, not knowing exactly how to find to God, but hoping that, through some work, God will meet them half-way.
Others are in pain, due to loss or personal struggle, and are looking for words of comfort that our heritage can wisely offer.
Some have found a sense of home and community within our congregation that they had never before experienced.
Others find solace, even in the most routine moments of our Erev Shabbat worship service, that tell them it’s okay to finally relax after a long week.
And there are those who have gathered every Saturday morning for years, working their way verse-by-verse of the Torah, and this study brings them ever closer to God.
Mr. Beck, you must not reduce the Reform movement to a mere political organization because we are actually much more spiritual, involved, and extraordinary than you could ever imagine. Were you to take the time to step into one of our congregations, I think you’d be surprised by the feelings of joy, the care for the community, and the energy put into sustaining the families, the congregation, and the Jewish community at large.
You are more than welcome, Mr. Beck, to come spend Shabbat with us, and to meet me, one of those Reform Rabbis of whom you speak so highly. And, perhaps, with a bit of luck, we will all come away just a bit wiser than before.
Rabbi Marci N. Bellows serves as rabbi of Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, NY. A graduate of Brandeis University, she was ordained by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2004