The Schizophrenic Jewish Hierarchy

I just read that at the JFNA General Assembly, Kadima MP Tzipi Livni addressed the crowd with a message of Jewish unity, calling for “dialog between the Jews of the Diaspora and of Israel to ensure that we would forever remain one people. That is how I see you when I stand here today… not as Reform Jews or Orthodox or Conservative.

Setting aside the cookie-cutter content of her speech, am I the only one that thinks when someone mentions the three major Movements of North American Judaism in the same breath, there’s an inherent resistance that takes place, our of fear of establishing a hierarchy?

I can imagine Livni’s speech-writers spending hours formulating that one sentence:

– Who do we put first? Reform? If we say Reform first, then we have to say Orthodox second, otherwise it will look like we’re going bottom up along the religious scale.

– There’s a religious scale?

– Of course there is, everyone knows there’s an identity problem in North American Judaism.

– Nu? Maybe we shouldn’t put Reform first, it makes it look like we’re starting at the bottom.

– Ok, so let’s start with Orthodox.

– No, then it looks like we’re starting at the top and working our way down.

– What is wrong with North American Jews?! Why can’t they just be like us Israelis and have one, state-sponsored religious stream. Things would be so much easier that way…

– Yes. Yes, they would.

– Ok, so what about Conservative Judaism… why don’t we start with them?

– If we put Conservative first, then it will be too obvious that we’re trying to avoid establishing a hierarchy.

– Ok, so let’s start with Orthodox, but then go straight to Reform so it looks like we understand religious pluralism.

– Then we’re leaving Conservative for last; people will think we’re making a comment about the dying state of their movement.

And on, and on, and on, and on…

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