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July 11, 1986 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-11

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Call 356-6790 or 356-5076

tivism as its raison d'etre and as its only
tenet. The new group, "Activist Judaism"
considers the ancient laws of kashrut to be
anachronistic and abrogated entirely.
Now, the members of "Activist Juda-
ism" will readily eat pork. That is none of
the Reform Jew's business, of course, and
none of mine. But what would happen if
the "Activist" movement suddenly decided
that it had to insist that the Reform Jew
eat pork, as a show of solidarity with them?
"We are a valid movement of Jewish ex-
pression," they say, "and we deem pork to
be permitted, indeed recommended. You
deny us legitimacy by refusing to eat what
we deem perfectly good Jewish food. -
Would the Reform Jew be destroying
the unity of the Jewish people and the
validity of Jewish pluralism by continuing
to adhere to the dictates of his conscience
and shunning pork?
Is not the conversion "issue," to speak
honestly, every bit as simple?
I don't reject a Reform or Conservative
conversion out of spite or hatred. It is just
that conversion is a quintessentially
halachic area, virtually saturated in legal
detail. To overlook that detail is, in my
world-view as an observant Jew, to take
advantage of what is an entirely legalistic
effect without abiding by the very laws
which govern— which define! — it. It is, in
a simpler word, a sham.
I am not thereby denying anyone his or
her belief. But can I really be expected to
throw my own ideals and beliefs out the
window, just to accommodate someone
else's desire to change the meaning of
Is such an expectation in the least toler-
ant or liberal?
Yet it is we Orthodox who are called in-
tolerant and spiteful and hateful of others.
We cannot allow ourselves to give the
impression that we are just another
"branch" of Judaism. We consider
ourselves the trunk, and only time will
show if the "branches" are really alive or
hopelessly withered.
When well-meaning people like Rabbi Ir-
ving Greenberg suggest that the hatred
and the tempers be toned down, the sug-
gestion is only pertinent to the liberal
elements; we have no hatred for other
Jews. When they suggest that represen-
tatives of all the groups claiming to be
Judaism sit down, as equals, as partners
in a triumverate "Judaism,-" they insult
the convictions of us Orthodox, and de-
mand of us the unconscionable. Of course
we'll talk to Reform and Conservative rab-
bis. We do, all the time! Of course we'll be
civil. We always are!
But an official body of rabbis, which
would so clearly foster the impression of
a nonexistent and unfortunately impossi-
ble unity of beliefs and goals, can never be
agreed to by us. No offense at all is intend-
ed against any Jew, observant or not. It
is just that we cannot distort in any way


the image of Judaism which countless
ancestors of all of us were tortured and
died for.
The seemingly sensitive and caring pro-
posals like those of Rabbi Greenberg are,
when viewed in unenhanced reality, insen-
sitive and unfeeling. Orthodox recognition
of other "Judaism's" will simply never
happen, yet that is the express "com-
promise" so earnestly sought by the other
groups. Is it that hard to understand that
one does not compromise one's very life-
Yet we harbor not a stitch of hatred or
intolerance against our non-observant fel-
low-Jews. We are just trying to uphold
what we perceive to be Judaism, for our
own children, and for those of all Jews,
Reform, Conservative, and otherwise.

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No one of us can predict the future. Rab-
bi Schindler might feel that the hordes of
converts he hopes to woo to Reform will
constitute the future identity of Jewry,
that the Reform philosophy will come to
be seen as the Judaism of the future.
But there are those of us who feel other-
wise, who feel that even myriad converts
to Reform will prove no match in their
staying power for the. Orthodoxy of the
future, who feel that strong Jewish iden-
tity will more likely persevere and flourish
among the children of Jews who live their
Judaism and accept their Judaism to its
fullest, as did our common ancestors,
among those who consider their lives
enriched with and governed by the result
of the Sinaic revelation and the halacha
which derived and evolved therefrom.
It would seem that, aside from the theo-
logical and historical arguments, the
demographics alone indicate what is com-
ing. Orthodox families are generally and
determinedly large. They are also cen-
tripetal, and the continuity of their belief-
system and lifestyle can likely be assumed.
They are also fully intelligent and the very
opposite in their psychologies of the pro-
verbial "ghetto Jews," fully aware of the
varied Jewish world around them and
reaching out to it.
A generation or two hence, time will
have revealed in what group of Jews it was
that Jewish identity and Jewish ideals
flourished in our times. Only then will to-
day's pluralism finally be seen to have
been either a pearl or a peril.
One thing, though, I feel assured of. If
the seeds we "Ultra-Orthodox" plant to-
day grow true, our children and grand-
children will have only feelings of care, con-
cern and love for their fellow Jews, for all
their fellow Jews, as have their parents
and grand-parents.

Rabbi Shafran, a Baltimore native, attended
the Talmudical Academy and Ner Israel Rab-
binical College here and has taught at the New
England Academy of Torah, a high school* in
Providence, Rhode Island for ten years.

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