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January 22, 1993 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-22

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Seeking Middle







abbi Daniel Lapin is
taking a year off. Sort
Head of the Pacific Jew-
ish Center in Venice, Calif.,
Rabbi Lapin this year has
dedicated himself to devel-
oping Toward Tradition, a
Washington_ State think
tank where "Jews and
Christians cooperate on a
Judeo-Christian, but not
theological, agenda."
Rabbi Lapin decided to
start Toward Tradition
when he realized the
dearth of Jewish organiza-
tions expressing even a
modicum of opposition to
hard-core pornography.
They all hold such liberal
positions on every sensitive
issue, including abortion,
he says.
Toward Tradition, with
2,000 members, is not pro-
life. It is essentially pro-
choice, but not in the same
way as most American
Jewish organizations. Tak-
ing what he believes is a
kind of middle-of-the-road
position, Rabbi Lapin op-
poses federally funded
Yes, it means some in-
digent women may be de-
nied a right accorded the
more affluent. "But a mo-
tor car also is legal for
everybody," he says. "Legal
doesn't mean free."
Toward Tradition pro-
vides a monthly newsletter
and management semi-
nars "giving spiritual strat-
egy to solve contemporary
Rabbi Lapin, a native of
South Africa, stresses that
he and his organization do
not promote abortion. They
believe it should be legal,
but discouraged. "It's not
good for society to be en-
gaged in the process of
healing instead of killing,"
he says. ❑

Elizabeth Applebaum

Marc Gellman

been the most vocal opponent
of abortion, and the predom-
inantly Christian bent of the
movement is impossible to ig-
nore. When pro-lifers gather
for the annual March for Life
in Washington, D.C., invari-
ably the scene includes a bar-
rage of rosaries, crosses and
pictures of Jesus.
It's hardly the kind of set-
ting one imagines an Ortho-
dox rabbi would enjoy. But
Rabbi Levin has fond recol-
lections of the rallies.
"I delivered the invocation
for the 1979 March for Life,"
he says. "When I stood on the
steps of the Capitol, I looked
out as long as the eye could
see. There were waves and
waves of people talking about
the sanctity of life. To tell you
the truth, it was very inspi-
Rabbi Levin, who in 1985
ran on the Right to Life tick-
et for mayor of New York,
does not discount the reli-
gious differences that sepa-
rate him and his Christian
pro-life colleagues. He tells
them at the outset not to
"mistake what I do as acqui-
escence on any theological is-
sue." That usually solves the
Pro-life fundamentalist
Christians and Catholics "are
not the bogeyman," he says.
"We are allies in a cause."
Furthermore, he says, if
there are Jews who have a

Yehuda Levin

problem with him working
with Christians on abortion,
turnabout is fair play.
"Why is it kosher for sec-
ular, liberal Jews to use them
as allies for political reasons
- like supporting Israel - but
not for a rabbi preserving the
moral fiber of our country?"
Which brings Rabbi Levin
to another strange bedfellow.
His name is Rabbi Marc
Gellman. He is the author of
Where Does God Live? and
Does God Have A Big Toe?
and co-host of "The God
Squad," a nationally syndi-
cated program airing on the
VISN network. He also is Re-
"I grew up in a home where
voting for a Republican was
considered to be one of the ba-
sic sins," says Rabbi Gellman,
head of Temple Beth Torah
in Melville, N.Y. For most of
his life he enjoyed being a lib-
eral and everything that
went along with it. Then he
began to seriously consider
the issue of abortion. His
stance today, he says, is both
ethically and halachically
apropos: "Abortion on de-
mand is immoral."
"Halachah does not state
that all abortion is immoral,"
he adds. "Any abortion to
save the life of the mother is
permitted, indeed required."
At the same time, "Ju-
daism has many laws that
prevent us from doing any-

Paula Ross

thing to harm the innocent.
One is not allowed to hunt for
pleasure, for example, or
thoughtlessly tear leaves
from a tree.
"If you take Jewish law se-
riously, it's obvious that if you
can't rip a leaf off a tree, you
can't la a fetus - which is by
anyone's account innocent."
The vast majority of Amer-
ican Jews are pro-choice. A
1990 sur-
vey, con-
ducted by Victor Rosenblum
the New
2,000 voters
showed that
85 percent
of Jews call
11 percent
pro-life, and
4 percent
Among the
public, the
figures were
52 percent
41 percent
pro-life, and
5 percent
Gellman be-

lieves Jews are more likely to
be pro-choice because they
are more likely to be liberal
and have a history of sympa-
thy for the feminist agenda.
But that has nothing to do
with Halachah.
"The Jewish position o-
abortion is a lot different
than what Jews say about
abortion," Rabbi Gellman

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