Let me explain. I grew up in an extremely jewish area in the United States. There are reform, conservative, and orthodox communities in my town. However each denomination usually keeps to themself. (Interesting observation but will save for another post). My mom was raised sephardic orthodox and my dad was not religious at all just jewish by birth. The compromise they made as a child was somewhere in the middle of no exposure to religion and an orthodox upbringing. They compromised on reform day school instead of the orthodox one in our town. I found this out yesterday. The reason it got brought up during a conversation with my mom was the following.
I have been going to services at my university and they are reform services. I always found it strange how everyone would sing the prayers in hebrew, have no idea what they meant, no idea what the transaction was, no idea what the meaning of them was. We were all just taught these prayers like parrots. Overtime we memorized them. Like the lyrics to any pop song. This also bothered me during my bar mitzvah. I was literally given a CD by my cantor. He recorded all the prayers and my torah portion. And what did I do? I memorized them. I didn’t know what they meant, what the translation was, how they were related to anything, nothing. I just memorized them like a song. And during my bar mitzvah I read them well and used a yad (of course) but I was pointing at nothing. It was literally all memorization and everyone ate it up like they were watching a broadway. At that point it was nothing more than me being an actor in a role I didn’t research. I have noticed this is a very very common situation in many reform communities.
So I had this conversation with my mom about these concerns. She then told me about the compromise and how she was raised orthodox and had many rabbi’s in Israel in her family history, I had no idea about any of this. I feel duped.
This is my perspective, and you can respectfully disagree. Judaism allows you to seek metaphors and take-aways from the text and teaching. Essentially you can make it your own. You can still follow the rules and laws but the reasoning is of your own connection. If you have access to Judaism as a whole, you can study it, learn it, challenge it, digest it, and create a value system that works for you. But if you are part of a sect of Judaism that picks and pulls whatever it chooses (subjectively) to teach its followers then you can only study it, learn it, challenge it, digest it, and create a value system based on these half baked and watered downed teachings and approaches. It’s very similar to the allegory of the cave. You don’t know what you don’t know.
I have realized, growing up in a reform community, that a majority of people who are reform (all ages and groups) are more culturally jewish than anything. (I love bagels/cream cheese and Curbed (Larry David) too but these are on the surface representations of Jewish life). I grew up in a community of high holidays jews. A lot of it is a rather basis approach to such a profound religion. I don’t want that for me, for my future, for my children. I want them to learn about the religion as a whole and then they can make their decision.
TLDR: How do I, what are the steps or advice you’d give someone, who is curious about exploring Judaism from a modern orthodox perspective?