Something that I find fascinating is that no matter what type of Jewish setting I’m in (all Orthodox, mixed, Reform heavy, etc), I often hear people citing a scale of religiosity that places Orthodoxy on one end, and either Reform or unaffiliated on the other end.
People will say things like “there were all types of Jews there, from unaffiliated to Orthodox.” That statement implies those two groups to be outliers that encompass every other groups of Jews between them.
This is truly perplexing – especially when I hear it come out of very committed Conservative and Reform Jews.
I would not balk at a scale of halachik observance, or strict ritualistic practice, but it’s the scale of “how religious” that really throws me for a loop.
There are many Reform and Conservative Jews who are deeply religious, committed to their faith, and unwavering in their practice. On the flip side, there are many Orthodox Jews who are ambivalent or apathetic about their Judaism, and consider it to be more cultural/societal than religious.
And what does “religious” even mean? Is it the Jewish rules someone follows? Is it how long/intensely/often someone prays to God? Is it how moral and ethical a person is? What is it?
There is no basis to imply that any group of Jews is more or less religious than any other. Religion is what we make of it, and how we choose to manifest our relationship with God in this world.
I may be nitpicking with the language we use, but I recommend everyone think twice before implying any sort of inherent hierarchy within the greater Jewish community.