Post from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio
Sorry I couldn’t come up with a more creative title for this post. I’m doing research at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. That’s at the Hebrew Union College, the Reform Rabbinical Seminary here in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m researching Horace Meyer Kallen. I’ll be here for the next couple of weeks, and I promise I will have to some interesting posts coming soon.
I’ll just note that HUC is certainly very Jewish, but it’s not the Judaism that I’m familiar with. They have frozen White Castle burgers in the vending machines! There is treyf everywhere! And much less overt Zionism than most Jewish institutions I am used to. My dorm room has shalom on it written in Hebrew, but has no mezuzah by the door.
I was raised Reconstructionist, and have come to embrace the movement more thoroughly in my adulthood. It’s a good fit for an atheist progressive Zionist like myself. Still, my family keeps a moderately kosher home, and the benign practice of Jewish rituals means a lot to me. In principle, Reform always represented my least favourite aspects of Judaism: all faith, but no tradition. Kind of like Protestantism, minus Jesus.
Of course, that was Reform at its origins. Today, I see the rabbinical students running around with yarmulkes on their heads, which strikes me as weird for Reform. But I think that more and more Reform Jews are embracing some aspects of tradition in the fight against assimilation.
I should also say that the Reform movement is doing what my father calls the Jewish people’s “dirty work,” as they are the only movement that regularly performs mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews, and the only movement along with Reconstructionism that accepts patrilineal descent.