August 26, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Do you know this classic joke? An Orthodox, a Conservative, and a Reform rabbi are each asked whether you are supposed to say a brochah over a lobster.
The Orthodox rabbi asks, "What’s a...'lobster'?"
The Conservative rabbi says, “Some say yes, some say no.”
The Reform rabbi says, "What's a brochah?"
Or, what are the main differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism?
At an Orthodox wedding, the mother of the bride is pregnant.
At a Conservative wedding, the bride is pregnant.
At a Reform wedding, the rabbi is pregnant. And so is her wife.
And so on. Back in the olden days of the 20th Century, when I was growing up, we used to know that there were three kinds of Jews: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. That was it. Then I learned that there were other divisions among us: Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean and Oriental Jews from parts east and south, as well as Ashkenazic ones like us; Israeli Jews, who were different from North American Jews; and English and Australian and South African Jews who spoke funny. As our horizons broadened we learned that there were other types: Hasidic Jews, who were Orthodox but dressed like they were Amish, and Reconstructionist Jews, who didn’t believe we were the Chosen People; even Renewal Jews, who were very touchy-feely and wore Birkenstocks. We even learned that there was something called Secular-Humanist Jews, who didn’t believe in God but did believe that they were Jews and got together in minyans to not pray.