Dear Rabbi Broyde

In last week’s Jewish Week, Rabbi Michael Broyde — rabbi of the Young Israel of Toco Hills (Atlanta) and professor of law at Emory — published an opinion piece called “The End of Conservative Judaism.”

Rabbi Broyde’s thesis is that the Conservative movement’s recent decision on homosexuality was a move that demonstrated its break with Jewish law, and that along with ushering in the demise of the Conservative movement, will usher in an age in which American Jewry will have only two movements: Traditional and Liberal.

Rabbi Broyde clearly has a healthy dose of skepticism about liberal Judaism (for example, he takes it for granted that the legal nature of the homosexuality decision is “bogus”), but the tone of the article is descriptive, not ideological. Thus, Rabbi Broyde writes:

So now that American Jewry has outgrown its adolescence, I predict a rosy future of two denominations, with many subcultures within each of these denominations. There will be one denomination (called “Liberal” in most of the world) that denies that Jewish law is binding…There will also be a second denomination (called “Traditional” in most of the world) that observes halacha religiously…

All of this, I think, is a change for the better. The reorganization of American Jewry along the lines of acceptance or rejection of Jewish law will only help people make important choices in their own religious life.

Though I agree with some of what Rabbi Broyde writes, I do think the article is a bit deceptive. For one, Rabbi Broyde defines Liberal Judaism in terms of Orthodox (or Traditional) values. Defining Liberal Judaism as a denomination that “denies that Jewish law is binding” would be like a Liberal Jew defining Traditional Judaism as a denomination that values the fetishization of law more than the dignity of women and non-Jews.

Additionally, Rabbi Broyde’s supposed neutral/descriptive posture must be called into question in light of an article he published in the Jewish Press last month, where he writes:

Posted on February 14, 2007

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