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November 28, 1986 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-11-28

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Dr. Emanuel Rackman's Plea For Respectful Communication

Clashes among differing Jewish
groups in Israel — they are applicable
also to religious divisiveness in the
Diaspora — continue to be causes for .
serious concern. In Israel there have
been confrontations; in the Diaspora
they are often cause for anger and suspi-
These clashes have been subjects for
Halchic diagnosis in the scholarly writ-
ings of Dr. Emanuel Rackman, Bar-Ilan
University provost and until recently its
In one of his challenging essays in
the Jewish Week of New York, Dr.
Rackman pointed out that on the basic
principle all Jewish groups are in
agreement. On the basic idea he stated:
"I can not fathom why it is so difficult to
convince everyone that since all three
groups agree on much, even if there re-
mains much on which they differ, then,
at least with respect to the areas in
which there is consensus, there ought to
be respectful communication and cooper-
ation between them."
It is on this point that Rabbi
Rackman, who is among the most distin-
guished Orthodox scholars in the world,
resorted to personal experiences, offering
this argument:
For me the logic seems ir-
refutable. And if I am right, then
the present polarization in
American Jewish life and in Is-
rael does not derive from logic
but from a deficiency in the souls
of those who opt for separatism,
"non-recognition" or iron cur-
tains between Jews of one per-
suasion or another.
If their position were dictated
by logic, then within each group
we ought have a multitude of de-
nominations that do not "recog-
nize" or communicate with each
other. Like Protestant Christians,
we should have hundreds of
Jewish denominations, each

Molotov And Vandenberg:
Memo On UNO Founding

Vyacheslav Molotov, who died Nov.
8 at the age of 96, left memories on a
larger international scale than has
been indicated in the lengthy
obituaries. He had an especially impor-
tant role in San Francisco, in 1945, at
the founding of the United Nations
which, at that time, was generally re-
ferred to as UNO — United Nations
There was an especially important
press conference on the day prior to his
return to Russia, after he had attended
UNO sessions for a couple of weeks. A
Russian boat was the hotel for him, his
wife and their entourage.
Zionism and the Jewish national
aspiration was generally played down
by Molotov and nearly all of the heads
of the nations in attendance, including
the United States. There were some
2,000 correspondents at the final
Molotov press conference which was
marked by "beating around the bush"
on major issues. But Molotov had met
afterward with Senator Arthur H.
Vandenberg and other U.S. leaders,
and that made his presence at the UN
founding so very important.
I was the contact person with Van-
denberg, continuing from our Washing-
ton and other associations in my re-
quests for support for the Zionist ideal.
He had been responsive most of the

Continued on Page 24


Friday, November 28, 1986

Dr. Emanuel Rackman

claiming to have exclusive mas-
tery of truth and God's favor.
But, said Justice Oliver Wen-
dell Holmes, the life of the law is
not logic but experience. There-
fore, I must cite experience as
Israel's first minister of reli-
gion, Rabbi Judah Leib Maimon,
once addressed the New York
Board of Rabbis. Its members
consist of Orthodox, Conserva-
tive and Reform rabbis. He in-
vited the Reform rabbis to make
to make aliya, and he promised
that he would arrange for them
to serve in collectives and settle-
ments which were non-religious
or anti-religious. The rabbis
could help these secularists to
"return" at least to the ac-
ceptance of a belief in God.
If he were alive today and
would say this in Jerusalem, he
would be stoned, perhaps by
some of his own offspring. But
does his suggestion not make
sense? Would any of the atheists
who might have had contact with
a Reform rabbi burn a
synagogue in Israel today? Or
would any Jew who attends
non-Orthodox services commit
sacrilegious deeds?
I question the wisdom of my
Orthodox colleagues who tell
Jews that it is better not to
attend synagogue altogether than
to attend non-Orthodox services.

For years, Yeshiva University
did not prohibit its rabbinic
alumni from leading non-
Orthodox synagogues and wor-
shiping in them. It simply ap-
praised each situation individu-
ally and decided whether the
flight from tradition was reversi-
ble or irreversible. Yet times
have changed, and I want only
one thing — civil communication
between the groups and respect-
ful cooperation with respect to
matters on which there is agree-
Believe it or not, I learned to
be tolerant from one of the
greatest authorities of an earlier
generation, Rabbi Menahem M.
Kasher. Almost 60 years ago, I
had been sent by Yeshiva Uni-
versity to preach in a synagogue
in one of New York's suburbs. I
spoke on the New Year and was
then invited to conduct Sabbath
Eve services on the following


Sabbath, the Sabbath of Peni-
tence. It seemed as if I would be
invited to do so fin- the rest of the
To my great surprise, no one
appeared in the synagogue at
sunset on Friday. I had misun-
derstood the invitation. The only
service this Orthodox synagogue
had was after the storekeepers
had closed their shops, at 9 in the
evening. Late Friday evening
services were then the "thing" in
Conservative and Reform
synagogues. But I declined to
conduct the traditional service so
late, and all I did was sing with
the congregation a few Sabbath
songs. We also had a few respon-
sive readings, and I preached.
How I cannot tell. But I was not
invited back.
I was proud of myself. I had
coped with the first challenge to
my religious practice and com-•
mitment. I did not do what non-
Orthodox rabbis did.
Months later I told the story
to Rabbi Kasher. He did not re-
act. Hours later he said to me in
Yiddish: "Mendel, what did you
accomplish that evening?" I was
stunned. Then he added: "All you
accomplished was that that Sab-
bath Eve 30 or 40 Jews did not
recite the Sh'ma!"
I had been taught the lesson.
It was my duty to help Jews per-

form a mitzvah, not distance
them from it.
This was also the philosophy
of my late father. Alas, that it is
not shared by more Orthodox
rabbis all over the world, espe-
cially the younger zealots who
will not heed their older teachers.

Dr. Rackman's appeal for "respectful
communication" is really an indictment
of those who disrupt it. It belongs in the
sphere of challenge to the leaderships of
the groups addressed in Israel and the
Diaspora alike. Its logic is so realistic
that it hardly needs further comment,
except for a recognition of the consis-
tency with which Rabbi Rackman con-
tinues to deal with the irritating issue a
divisiveness threatening the Jewish
communities everywhere.
There is an element of great courk
in Dr. Rackman's° appeal for "respect&
communication." Meriting recognition as
an authority on Halachic disputes, he
adheres to the great need for the respect
that is being abused all-too-often among
the many elements who form a combined
Jewish communal need. Even the sec-
ularists as well as the major religious
groups in Jewry need the respect begged
for. The total inclusion of all elements ire '
a unified communal structure is the
basis for a cooperativeness that leads to
the respect that speaks self-respect. Dr.
Rackman has formulated the basis fo
such dedication. He earns gratitude fo
such devotion to communal decency. 1

`Secular Humanism'
In An Age Of Dispute

An extended conservatism has
entered the age of politico -- religious -
social disputes.
There is, admittedly, a growth of
conservatism everywhere. It affects polit-
ical thinking. It is religiously dynamited.
There is a fundamentalism that
causes deep concern over the social is-
sues in the lives of peoples everywhere.
Therefore, the emphasis given in
their thinking and their approach to the
issues by an eminent Christian and a
distinguished Jewish scholar.
The views of Dr. A. Roy Eckardt,
emeritus professor of religion studies at
Lehigh University, and Dr. Norman
Lamm, president of Yeshiva University,
invite serious attention.
Dr. Lamm expressed his views, in
the form of a call for moral teaching and
study in a New York Times Op-Ed Page
essay, "A Moral Mission for Colleges."
Dr. Eckardt's considerations are in his
newest ecumenical study, "Jews and
Christians: The Contemporary Meeting"
(Indiana University Press).
Because of its powerful appeal for
spirituality, perhaps the Lamm view
should have priority. Expressing concern
that perhaps the "moral mission of
higher education" was being denigrated
as too parochial and amateurish," Dr.
Lamm commenced his appeal for spiritu-
ality by asserting:
Until about 50 years ago, it
was commonly accepted that the
university was responsible for of-
fering its students moral guid-
ance. Professors regarded them-
selves as not only the teachers of
knowledge and skills, but also as
educational stewards of a special
kind of wisdom: the nature of the
good life; truth and goodness and

Dr. Norman Lamm

beauty; and the value of thought
and reflection.
In time, that received wisdom
came under progressive assault.
Universities began to disseminate
knowledge without reference t(
this ethos. Intellectual inquir e
became an autonomous
enterprise. The moral mission 0.
higher education was denigrated
as too parochial and amateurish
and, in the sixties, as being
hypocritical, a cover for im-
Dr. Lamm enunciated a crAoo Lii,
could serve both as an accusation as we
as the very root of his challenge to
th .
denigrators he addressed. He

Continued on Page 24

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