Reform Movement Denounces Glenn Beck’s Attack on Religious Values

— Annette Powers

“Beck’s sweeping dismissal of the religious faith of a million and a half North American Jews was both tragic and outrageous.

Speaking on his Tuesday radio show, Fox News host Glenn Beck brought up the recent letter that more than 400 rabbis signed and placed as an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal criticizing him for repeatedly comparing his ideological foes to Nazis. He claimed that this letter, coordinated by Jewish Funds for Justice, was dominated by Reform rabbis, and dismissed the Movement as akin to “radicalized Islam.” Reform rabbis, he said, “are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way.” His comparison was “not about terror,” he stressed, but “about politics, and so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith.”

In response to these remarks, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism issued the following statement:

We are deeply distressed by Glenn Beck’s profoundly offensive remarks about Reform Judaism and Reform rabbis.  Beck’s sweeping dismissal of the religious faith of a million and a half North American Jews was both tragic and outrageous.

Reform Judaism, a proud and venerable religious tradition, does not accept Mr. Beck as the arbiter of what is spiritual and what is not, of who has faith and who does not, of what constitutes real religion and what does not.   We respect his faith and demand that he respect ours.  Our members, who — like others in North America — apply their religious values to the problems of the broader society, are happy to have Mr. Beck disagree with us on any position that one or more of us may take, but not to make pronouncements and sweeping condemnations that he has neither the right nor the knowledge to make.

We are particularly incensed that Mr. Beck chose to compare Reform Judaism with “radicalized Islam.”  While noting that Reform Judaism is not about “terror,” he implied the opposite — or, at the very least, that the religious faith of the largest segment of North American Jewry is extremist and fanatic.

Mr. Beck’s comments are offensive to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike.  Speaking in sweeping generalizations about other religious traditions is offensive.  Imputing radicalism and fanaticism to large religious groups is offensive.  Dismissing the heartfelt religious beliefs of millions of North Americans is offensive.  Mr. Beck should be ashamed of his comments, and we hope that he will have the good sense never to repeat them.

Transcript of Beck’s comments follows the jump.

Reposted from Media Matters for America

Last month, 400 rabbis signed an open letter from Jewish Funds For Justice to Rupert Murdoch requesting that Glenn Beck be sanctioned for his false claims that George Soros collaborated with the Nazis.

Today, rather than apologizing, Beck lashed out at the rabbis. Beck falsely claimed that “all” of the rabbis who signed the letter came from the Reform movement of Judaism. Beck asserted that Reform Judaism is “more about politics” than about faith. Beck went on to liken Reform Judaism to “radicalized Islam.”

Transcript

PAT GRAY (co-host): And now remember, this is all fueled by an organization that Soros funds, that has a bunch of progressive rabbis that came out against Glenn and said —

BECK: OK, you have to — hang on just a second. When you talk about rabbis, understand that most — most people who are not Jewish don’t understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis, and then there are the Reformed rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just — radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the Reform Judaism, it is more about politics. I’m not saying that they’re the same on —

GRAY: No, obviously not.

BECK: — and they’re going to take it at that, but — stand in line.

GRAY: “Glenn Beck says –“

BECK: It’s not about terror or anything else, it’s about politics, and so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith. Orthodox rabbis — that is about faith. There’s not a single Orthodox rabbi on this list. This is all Reformed rabbis that were — that made this list.

STU BURGURIERE (executive producer): Yeah, I don’t know that for a fact. I know that certainly this organization is a progressive political organization. And that’s fine.

These are pretty outrageous claims — even for Beck.

First of all, the letter was signed by rabbis from the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstruction, and Reform movements. So Beck is dead wrong about that.

But more importantly, the Reform movement isn’t some fringe, radical group that has abandoned Judaism; it’s the largest religious denomination American Jews.

According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, 35 percent of American Jews consider themselves to be Reform, compared to 10 percent who consider themselves to be Orthodox and 26 percent who consider themselves to be Conservative.

Similarly, the survey found that 39 percent — a plurality — of American Jewish households that belong to a synagogue are Reform.

According to its website, the Union for Reform Judaism includes “more than 900 congregations in the United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands” and “is the largest Jewish movement in North America and represents an estimated 1.5 million Jews.”

That’s a lot of Jews that Beck just smeared.