One participant called it an “eye-opener” — a two-day conference aimed at introducing aliyah shlichim, or emissaries, to Reform Judaism and how the movement views immigration to Israel. But on that score — the priority that Reform Jews place on Israel and aliyah — the event presented a decidedly mixed picture.
The Reform movement is embroiled in an emotional national debate on the future of its belief system.
At issue is a controversial draft document titled the “Ten Principles of Reform Judaism” that seeks to set guidelines for how North America’s 1.2 million Reform Jews should practice their faith in the 21st century.
Rather than fostering unity, the platform, authored by the leader of the movement’s rabbinic arm, has provoked a firestorm of criticism from Reform lay leaders, academics and rabbis nationwide.
Tamara Charm had a watershed experience when she chanted the Torah portion at Yom Kippur services last year at Drisha, the women's Torah learning academy, for a congregation of both women and men.
"It was incredible to daven in a way which conformed to traditional halacha but felt like the women's section was participating as well as the men's," said Charm, 29. "It was very spiritual."