Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Post from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio

with 2 comments

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.

Not sure where this post is going, so I’ll conclude by saying that people here are incredibly friendly. Also, I love Graeters and Skyline Chili! I swear the latter is the poutine of the midwest.


Written by David Weinfeld

March 16, 2010 at 17:02

Posted in Jews, religion

2 Responses

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  1. I’m just happy you didn’t call us “reformed” Jews. I hate that. And Skyline.


    March 16, 2010 at 17:09

  2. Let me just note that Reform Jewish cookbooks from the turn of the 20th century featured meat almost exclusively cooked in butter, and countless recipes for Lobster à l’Américaine and oyster canapés. So have a steak before your Greater’s for the ‘true’ Reform experience.


    March 16, 2010 at 17:29

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