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April 18, 1986 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-04-18

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34 Friday, April 18, 1986



Calling For A Truce
In War Of Incivility

Special To The Jewish News


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Princeton, N.J. — They came
together to speak, the leaders of
the Reform, Conservative, and
Reconstructionist movements
and the president of Yesiva
University, and though it was
less than a dialogue — they
gave prepared talks and never
appeared on the dais at the
same time — it was still a major
advancement in the cause of
Jewish unity.
There were harsh words and
there were words of conciliation
and in the end, several pro-
posals emerged that will now be
studied carefully, ranging from
an Orthodox leader's call for a
national religious court to a Re:
form leader's suggestions that
the rabbis of each branch ex-
change pulpits.
The occasion was the first an-
nual critical issues conference
sponsored by CLAL (the Na-
tional Jewish Center for Learn-
ing and Leadership), an organ-
ization headed by Rabbi Yitz
Greenberg and dedicated to
Jewish unity and leadership
education. More than 250 of
North American Jewry's most
prominent lay, rabbinic and pro-
fessional leaders were on hand
for the two-day session in an ef-
fort to develop practical solu-
tions to the widening gulf
separating the different de-
nominations within Judaism.
Participants were told at the
outset that the goal was not to
come up with a panacea but to
"nurture passionate advocates
for unity" and to take a stand
against polarization.
Among the proposals was
Rabbi Norman Lamm's call for
the creation of a national Bet
Din, comprised of three judges
"chosen on the basis of schol-
arship and personal halachic ob-
servance, not institutional af-
Dr. Lamm, an Orthodox
leader and president of Yeshiva
University, was aware of the
implications of his proposal.
"Many of my Orthodox col-
leagues will not go along be-
cause of the implied `recognition'
of non-Orthodox rabbis," he
said. "But they have to ac-
knowledge the need to alleviate
untold personal suffering by ac-
cepting purely halachic stands
and not being distracted by
In his presentation, Lamm
sought to walk a delicate bal-
ance between the right-wing Or-
thodox who would be critical of
any conciliatory moves towards
the other branches and the left
wing and centrist Orthodox who
would favor dialogue with fellow
Jews. Said Lamm: "We must try
our best within the limits of our
integrity to search for Jewish
unity. No amount of good-will
posturing will resolve the prob-
lems facing Jews today. Al-
though there can be more than
one response within Jewish law,
a pluralism which accepts ev-
erything as legitimate can lead
to spiritual nihilism. If every-
thing is kosher, then nothing is

Dr. Irving Greenberg:
Calling for Jewish unity.

"Orthodoxy," he continued, "is
by its very nature tied to a
transcendent view of a Being
who is beyond us. That vision
includes the revelation of Torah
and Halachah as a way of life.
It, therefore, obligates us, and
we are not, authorized to dispose
of it according to personal taste
or whim."
He called for a renewed spirit
of tolerance among all denomi-
nations, saying that the issues
of conversion and especially
Jewish divorce pose a grave
threat to Jewish unity. "If Or-
thodox and Conservative Jews
cannot recognize a non-halachic
conversion by a Reform rabbi,"
he said, "at least the person in-
volved can later undergo a con-
version according to Orthodox
Jewish law. But the lack of a
Jewish divorce (get) would label
a subsequent Jewish remarriage
adultery, and children of that
union mamzerim (bastards) who
are forbidden to marry other
Jews for generations."

Lamm suggested reviving the
concept of a national Bet Din,
first discussed in the 1950s to
deal with these issues of per-
sonal status.
Rabbi Alexander Schindler,
the outspoken president of the
Reform movement, apoligized
for the tone of some of his harsh
statements in the past about Or-
thodoxy while maintaining the
positions he advocated. "I have
in the heat of response to what I
saw as an attack more than
once indulged in the anger of
the outcast, using words and in-
voking images and bitter
analogies, which I now regret. I
have responded in kind to the
zeal of Orthodoxy's most ex-
treme spokespersons, using their
scorn as an excuse for not truly
ost rievris, to lessen the pain of
According to Schindler, the
greatest danger arising from
"our wranglings" is not that
"the Orthodox refuse to recog-
nize Reform conversions, but
rather that the great mass of
unaffiliated Jews will be so put
off by what they see that they
Will say `a plague on all your
houses.' "
He said that the issue of pat-
rilineal descent (adopted by Re-
form groups) was nqt really a
new concept, and that biblical
lineage was male-oriented.. "We

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