Friday, June 18, 2010

R Eric Yoffie: Legacy to Reform Judaism


In announcing that he will retire from the presidency of the Union for Reform Judaism in two years, Rabbi Eric Yoffie said that he aimed to give the URJ “ample time” to search for his successor. It’s a good thing, too.

That search will require careful thought. Given the longevity of those tasked with leading the Reform movement’s congregational arm — Yoffie will have been in the job 16 years when he steps down, while his two predecessors, Maurice Eisendrath and Alexander Schindler, served for 31 years and 23 years respectively — the choice seems likely to define Reform Judaism’s priorities and direction for a generation to come.

During their tenures, Eisendrath and Schindler focused on growing Reform Judaism, which today is America’s largest Jewish religious movement. They developed initiatives dealing with social action and religious outreach, and served as spokesmen for liberal Judaism around the world.

Yoffie, by contrast, has worked to turn Reform Judaism inward, urging its rank and file to focus on enriching their spiritual lives and expanding their knowledge of Judaism. “At this critical juncture in Jewish history,” he declared at his 1996 installation, “it is study of Torah, and prayer, and encouraging the mitzvot of home and family life that come before anything else.”


  1. Very narrow of you. They reform are raised knowing nothing at all. If Yoffie caused some of them to start to learn about the Mitzvos, and then ultimately get on the path to proper observance, is that really all so bad? Before you completely dismiss this, I can tell you that I know of several people first hand who got turned on to authentic Judaism after Yoffie guided them to learn and do the Mitzvot. Yes, they became Kosher and Shomer Shabbos, and the women began to keep Taharas haMishpocha and use the Mikveh. I'm not advocating reform by any means. But just because someone affiliates reform, it doesn't mean that they are all bad, just like affiliating Orthodox doesn't make someone all good either.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.