My journey into Judaism has been one of tremendous growth, a ton of learning, more contemplation, and introspection than I knew would be involved; through it all, it has been beautiful, confusing, and absolutely amazing. In the beginning, I was quite literally a babe in the woods, I knew absolutely nothing but what I’d read about the Jewish concepts of G-d, and by the time I’d converted, I knew enough to help others along their own conversion journeys. My family has lived a fully Jewish life for years now, within a Jewish community,
We are Reform Jews and although we live a mostly Kosher and Orthodox life, we are proudly Reformers because we do not fit in wholly with Orthodoxy. I wrote in a previous article (read here) about why we do not believe in certain elements of Orthodoxy, and while we might upon glance be taken for Orthodox, we’re proud Reform Jews. I have many friends who are Orthodox who always urge me to stop being stubborn, to take the leap of faith, and to talk to an Orthodox Rabbi about conversion, but honestly, I already converted and have a home here in Reform Judaism.
I adamantly believe I am Torah observant, Orthodox Rabbi would say I am not wholly observant, while my Reform Rabbis would tell me what I am doing is beautiful and meaningful as long as it’s meaningful to me, and it is. Plus in the words of the late Billy Mays, “…but wait there’s more,” we absolutely feel connected to Eretz Yisrael and are absolutely Zionists looking forward to one day making Aliyah to our homeland. Just to round it all out, we celebrate Shabbat, holidays, festivals, life cycle events, and community events, and live a Jewish life to perform the mitzvot.
In our synagogue, we stick out a bit, because I wear tzitzit and dress frum, as does my wife, while most others dress very modern, some even electing against the kippa. We are all free to do so as we please and to do what feels spiritually fulfilling to us and it’s that autonomy that is beautiful. We stick out, but no one says anything to us, our Rabbi said if someone did we could educate them even, so that is awesome.
If we were to attend an Orthodox synagogue, firstly, we’d have to move near the synagogue, second, we would constantly struggle with the issues brought up in the essay I mentioned and linked earlier. My wife and I have debated the topics for the sake of heaven, with me playing devil’s advocate siding with Orthodoxy, and even using references I found online (from Rabbis and Chabad) used to explain, “why,” and still we were able to debate them away.
So, we don’t fit in with Orthodoxy, and we don’t always fit in with Reform either, but that’s okay, Reform accepts that too!
If I want to wear Tzitzit, Tefillin, ritually wash my hands, go through all of three times daily prayers, and do most else an Orthodox Jew does, but not be Orthodox, Reform is cool with that. If I want to be vegetarian and eat Beyond burgers, and other meat substitutes that are wholly made with veggies, with cheese, Reform says cool, Orthodox says, “What if someone sees you?” Who will see me that would matter more than G-D, trust me, he knows that I’m not eating meat and cheese, so who am I proving anything to, do they need to see the packaging?
Reform doesn’t care about that, so the fact that we’re Kosher and Vegetarian isn’t seen as odd or anything, many are, but also many are not, again autonomy. It’s the freedom to question, then to debate for the sake of heaven, then to resolve what is gained and put it into practice, it’s empowering on the deepest spiritual level. I can’t say that I know better than anyone else at all, about anything; no Rabbi, Sage, or Prophet, but what I do know is that some of what is said and practiced is not in Torah.
(INSERT NOTE: No, we are not Karaite Jews, though they are fascinating)
So, no we do not fit in, so we fit in with Reform Judaism, and we’re happy with that!