Glenn Beck
Former Fox News host Glenn Beck. Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

Provocative Fox news commentator Glenn Beck angered American Jewish leaders again on Wednesday with new sweeping comments about the Reform movement of Judaism, the largest stream of Judaism in the United States.

On his February 22 radio show, Beck compared Reform Judaism to "radical Islam," saying that both were more about 'politics' - changing what is outside of oneself - rather than about 'religion' - changing what it inside of oneself.

Beck made the comments a month after 400 rabbis, many of whom are affiliated the Reform movement, paid for a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, decrying what they called Beck making inappropriate references to the Nazi Holocaust.

“When you talk about rabbis, understand that most people who are not Jewish don't understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis and then there are the Reformed (sic) rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It's almost like Islam - radicalized Islam - in a way to where radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics," said Beck.

"I'm not saying that they're the same on - and they're going to take it at that, but -- stand in line. It's not about terror or anything else, it's about politics, and so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith. Orthodox rabbis -- that is about faith. There's not a single orthodox rabbi on this list. This is all reformed rabbis that were -- that made this list," Beck continued.

“These comments are deeply offensive, completely absurd”, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism told Haaretz. “Reform Judaism it’s the largest segment of the U.S. Jewish community, and it’s the fastest growing denomination in the U.S. in any faith group – it has much to do with the spiritual needs of a large number of American Jews and to reduce it to [its] social justice agenda is just incorrect."

"It’s troubling on that level, but to compare between any religion to the violent extremism of another religion – I think he owes American people an apology," said Saperstein. "He keeps insulting people and when they object he says they are being oversensitive when they set a record straight. How can someone be oversensitive when he compares them to extremist elements that support terror?”

Rabbi Saperstein said he hopes that the persistence of critics will finally convince Fox news to “gain courage to do the right thing – despite his popularity, take an action to ensure it won’t happen again.”

Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League National Director, said in a statement, “Glenn Beck’s comparison of Reform Judaism to radical Islam demonstrates his bigoted ignorance. Despite his feeble attempt to suggest that he was not equating Reform Judaism with Islamic extremist terrorism, the simple fact that he would mention them in the same breath is highly offensive and outrageous."

"The truth is that every religious body has political points of view, whether one agrees with them or not," said Foxman. "To compare Reform Judaism, which supports democratic institutions, to Islamic extremism, which supports anti-democratic movements and the repression of basic rights – including, for example, the denial of women’s rights – is beyond the pale."

"Glenn Beck has no business discounting the faith of any people, and he should think twice before commenting on something he doesn’t know much about," continued Foxman. "He owes the Reform movement an apology."

In their original criticism of Beck, the 400 rabbis wrote that he has has made "literally hundreds of on-air references to the Holocaust and Nazis when characterizing people with whom he disagrees," compares American leaders he does not like to Nazis and has said putting the "common good" first leads to Nazi-like "death camps."

"But you diminish the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any individual or organization you disagree with. That is what Fox News has done in recent weeks, and it is not only 'left-wing rabbis' who think so."