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March 11, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-11

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o all Jews share a unity of fate
and destiny? Or are we — as
the result of increasing bit-
terness and contempt — fast
approaching a society of Or-
thodox vs. non-Orthodox, when Am Echad,
One People, will become two?
These were among the key issues ex-
plored at a recent day-long conference in
New York as six leading scholars address-
ed the topic: "Conflict, Schism or Division?
Jewish Communal Antagonism in Past,
Present and Future."
Despite the depressingly somber title,
the presentations and exchanges were
often lively and always thoughtful. And
one could not help but think, looking
around the room at the 50 participants
from the Reform, Reconstructionist, Con-
servative and Orthodox movements, that
if this discussion could be a model for
others around the country, the current en-
mity level would surely decline.
But a closer look revealed that the peo-
ple gathered in this room at the offices of
the American Jewish Committee were not
really typical of the Jewish community as
a whole — and certainly not of the extreme
For example, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, the
individual most responsible for putting the
issue of internal division within the Jewish
community on the national agenda,
represented an Orthodox viewpoint in the
discussion. But to many in the Orthodox
community, Greenberg is not one of them.

Photography by Craig Terkowitz. Star by Kim Muller-Thym, faux-painted by Mary



Throughout the
seven-hour conference,
there were questions,
critiques, and rebuttals
and flashes of anger
as personal feelings
crept into the debate.

The positions he has taken as president of
CLAL, the Center for Leadership and
Learning, in advocating dialogue between
the traditional and liberal communities,
has led some Orthodox pulpit rabbis to
consider Greenberg a force destructive to
their movement.
And those critics are more liberal than
the right-wing Orthodox rabbis (noticeably
absent from the conference) who . publicly
advocate the position that Reform and
Conservative rabbis are heretics and that
if you hear them recite a bracha, or bless-
ing, you are not permitted to answer
"amen." They believe that the liberal bran-
ches of Judaism are inauthentic and that
it is wrong to give legitimacy to their
religious leaders by engaging in dialogue
with them.
Nor were there Reform rabbis present
who describe the Lubavitch Chasidic
movement as a "cult," or who take pride in
adopting radically liberal positions that
separate them further from traditional
Judaism. The most notable break was their
decision several years ago to recognize as
Jewish the child of an intermarriage where
the father is Jewish; for centuries Judaism
had ruled that a child's religion is that of
his mother.
For the most part, those in attendance
at the conference (co-sponsored by the
American Jewish Committee, CLAL and
the City University of New York) make up
the center, to varying degrees, of the
American Jewish religious spectrum.
These were people who advocate more
dialogue among Jews on the tough issues
of religious pluralism, who believe that
more liberal Orthodox and the more tradi-
tional Conservative factions to counter the
extremists on both sides.

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