A mass Jewish religion is non-existent in our time. Orthodox, and especially ultra-Orthodox Judaism, long ago crossed the border into absurdity. A religion which seriously requires its followers to tear toilet paper in advance of a religious holiday and expects twenty-first century women to wear headscarves has lost touch with reality.

Conservative Judaism never evolved into a religious teaching. Since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century it was a social movement designed to prevent Orthodox Jews from sliding into Reformism. While Conservative Judaism asserts the Torah was revealed to Jews non-verbally, Reformists believe that Jews were inspired to write down the Torah; that difference is a trifle. Conservative Judaism originally held sound potential: it postulated that Jewish religious interpretation (halacha) must evolve as it always did; Orthodox rabbis insisted that thousand-year old interpretations must apply today, even though the rabbis of old continually adapted Jewish law to changing circumstances. Conservative Judaism, however, sold itself out to atheist Jews. In return for acceptance and donations by middle-class American Jews, Conservative Judaism pandered to their wishes; they wished, of course, an unobtrusive religion. Consequently, Conservative Judaism followed Reform Judaism in abandoning the entire halacha and in wholesale review of the Torah. Competing with Reform Judaism, the Conservative Movement practically abandoned demands for kosher food and Sabbath observance, ordained lesbian rabbis, and now conducts same-sex marriage (“commitment”) ceremonies. For the end user, Conservative synagogues differ from Reform temples only in their more traditional liturgy. The new generation of atheist Jews opts for the authentic thing and abandons the Conservative Movement for Reformism.

Reformist Judaism tries to whitewash itself of its ultra-leftist political roots and become a respectable religion for middle-class atheists. But the only hard-wired concept of Reform Judaism is tikkun olam (repairing the world); everything else is voluntary. Typically for leftists, Reform Judaism redefined the term, giving it a very different meaning; its ignorant adherents swallowed the swindle. In Talmud, tikkun olam applies only to Jewish communities. In kabbalah, tikkun olam means observing commandments and the Oral Law. For Reform leftists, tikkun olam denotes social justice, or more bluntly, welfare. The world in shards (the Jewish concept behind tikkun olam) can be repaired into the temple or a welfare state; you can guess the Reform movement’s direction.

The original Reform Judaism in Germany was consciously designed to assimilate the Jews. Reform rabbis introduced Christian customs such as music and the priests’ dress, formally abandoned Jewish law and circumcision, and accepted only commonsense moral commandments not specific to Judaism. After doing away with the Jewish religion, the Reformists pronounced Jewishness a matter of religion rather than nationality. The people of the non-existent religion automatically assimilated. Their new allegiance was not to Jerusalem, but to Germany—“Zion” in the original Reform parlance.

In the Pittsburgh Platform, Reform Judaism praises Christianity and Islam for “spreading providential truths,” and rejects all peculiarly Jewish laws, derogatorily labeling them “rites.” The Reformers originally reduced Judaism to morality (as if the Christians or Buddhists are immoral!), but eventually compromised on that, too. Contemporary Judaism has no religious or even moral imperatives whatsoever; anyone is a good Jew for the Reform rabbis. Given their concern for animal rights, a dog who attends a Reform temple has no small chance of being declared an observant Jew. Reform temples are upscale venues for partying Jews, with no religious connotation.

Reform Judaism sensibly pronounces religious observance a matter of free choice. Indeed, a Jew should be able to choose a sect for himself or interpret the commandments as he sees fit. But Reformists make a fundamental logical error by accepting all personal choices. Murder is also a matter of free will and personal choice, yet it is punished. Moral deviation is a matter of free choice, yet it is frowned upon. Groups are bound by common principles and by religious schools. Jews who honestly interpret (rather than abandon) the commandments can form religious groups which share substantially similar interpretations. Desiring to incorporate an infinite number of Jews, Reform Judaism necessarily reduces their common denominator to zero: anything goes in Reform temples, including non-observance and atheism.

Though superficially modeled on Christian Protestantism, Reform Judaism vastly differs from it. Protestantism rejected impediments to faith; Protestants are Christians with strong core beliefs who reject much theological trivia. Reform Judaism abandoned everything Jewish so that the Jews became people like others. The Jews who rejected “separate but equal” treatment for blacks rejected it also for themselves; they wanted to be equal to and no different from Christians. The Reform Movement assisted them while conveniently calling that assimilation “Judaism.” Nineteenth-century Germans recognized this trend of Reform Judaism and staunchly opposed the Reformists for fear of Jewish assimilation into German society. The assimilatory power of Reformism was unleashed in the American melting pot.

The religion of the Torah is very unobtrusive, sufficiently unobtrusive that primitive Hebrews practiced it in Sinai. Modern rational Jews resent not the Torah (which most of them don’t know, in any case) but its rabbinical interpretation—Talmud, and to much greater extent, the body of halacha dating from the last millennium. Christians had a similar problem centuries ago; they responded with Protestantism, cleansing their original teaching of the layers of Catholic interpretation. Closed Jewish communities controlled by rabbis underwent similar religious pangs four centuries later. Like Protestantism and unlike Reformism, the Jewish re-awakening must accept the Bible wholeheartedly. It must accept the Talmud as a codex of respectable legal opinion, abandon the subsequent halacha, and leave interpretation to individuals. In practice, such an approach wouldn’t introduce too much variance among Jews; abstaining from exhausting work on Sabbath is a defining feature of the Jewish way of life, and whether one uses the phone on Sabbath is not significant.

A solo scriptura protestant movement arose within Judaism centuries before Luther: the Readers (of the Torah), also known as the Karaim. Karaites sought to prevent Jews, overwhelmed by rabbinism, from converting to much simpler monotheistic Islam. Unlike Orthodox Jews, Karaites eschewed communal administration and confined their activities to religious issues; Orthodoxy, consequently, prevailed by administrative measures. Faced with a similar problem, Christian Protestants quickly moved to develop their own communal administration. The Karaites didn’t and were forced to the fringe of the Jewish milieu. Though the number of white Karaites is now negligible, in the 30,000 range, there are over a hundred thousand Ethiopian Karaites who didn’t hear somehow during their millennia as Jews that Moses received the Oral Law along with the written Torah. Many Reform Jews also hold Karaite positions without knowing that.

Orthodox rabbis positioned themselves as a priestly class, intermediaries between Jews and God. That’s in direct violation of the function of all Jews as chosen people. Even Christian Protestants introduced the concept of a priesthood of believers, mistakenly appropriating Peter and Paul’s pronouncements, which were intended for Jews. The Karaites reserve the priesthood for all Jews; every Jew is entitled to interpret the commandments—but not to reject them, as one does in Reform Judaism.

Between the hammer of Reformist assimilation and the anvil of Orthodox absurdities, the Karaites have a chance to pass through.

some judaism makes sense