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April 18, 1986 - Image 34

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

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

34 Friday, April 18, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

NEWS

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-
filiation."
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
organizationardenominational
considerations."
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
kosher."

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
.
others."
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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