Worthwhile article about Rabbi Dr. Daniel Tropper who is retiring as head of Gesher (Bridge) an organization espousing secular-religious dialogue.

He is especially frustrated with the fact that after all these years the camps have only become more distant from one another.

“Religious Zionism has sidelined himself,” says Tropper. “We have become so radical that no one needs to relate to us at all. At the same time, the secular camp has reached the status of what French-Jewish sociologist Georges Friedman calls ‘Hebrew-speaking gentiles.’ Not only can most of them not read ancient Jewish texts, they cannot even understand the language of literature by Shai Agnon or Isaac Leib Peretz. When I immigrated to Israel in 1969, it was clear that this was a Jewish state, and the whole debate was over the character of her Jewishness. Today the intellectuals are developing a concept of ‘a state of all its citizens,’ and that means the loss of our common nucleus.”

Tropper’s most difficult moment throughout all the years of dialogue was “without a doubt” the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin:

“It was a terrible trauma for both sides, which we have not overcome to this day. Part of the secular alienation from Judaism stems from that event. True, a refined minority of secular Israelis realized that if something like this happened, it was a sign that they needed to contend with their Jewish identity, which prompted the secular-Jewish quest, but this is an elitist minority. I believe that for the overwhelming majority, the murder reinforced a feeling that they already had, that Judaism is something unethical and therefore not for them.”

Read it, it’s important to hear what he is saying: both sides are to blame, but in the end the divide is growing.

About the author

themiddle

15 Comments

  • how the force of darkness knows how to use our virtue against us. Very clever. Much clever than merely tempting us with glazed hams and French postcards. We can handle that. But when both sides just want to be good people and do the right thing…

    Beware of having your virtue used against you.

    There was a guy collecting funds for doweries for the poor brides. The force of darkness said, “Why are you taking all this time from your Torah studies to do that?”

    But the guy had sense and humility. He knew he was no great scholar and collecting door to door for the poor brides was his real usefulness.

    The worst fights in a family can be over what is best for the child that everyone loves.

    But TM will figure it all out. All will be well.

  • Both sides are responsible? I think their are elements on both sides that are responsible but greater interdenominational understanding continues regardless. Now, I’ve definitely learnt how some in the Orthodox camp are responsible, how are the Conservative and Reform responsible? Please continue to edify me TM. I await your response with baited breath.

  • Um, well, actually, as you keep telling me, Reform/Progressive and Conservative/Masorti are very small movements inside Israel. They are not what this article is about. This article is about Gesher’s outgoing leader discussing the secular-religious rift inside Israel. Specifically, he is speaking about religious Zionists and secular Zionists.

    So go to the article and you will get strong hints at what he’s saying:

    “At the same time, the secular camp has reached the status of what French-Jewish sociologist Georges Friedman calls ‘Hebrew-speaking gentiles.’ Not only can most of them not read ancient Jewish texts, they cannot even understand the language of literature by Shai Agnon or Isaac Leib Peretz.”

    and

    “When I immigrated to Israel in 1969, it was clear that this was a Jewish state, and the whole debate was over the character of her Jewishness. Today the intellectuals are developing a concept of ‘a state of all its citizens,’ and that means the loss of our common nucleus.”

    There are a number of factors at play here. Let’s ignore the parts where he blames the “Religious” Zionists since you can read the article for yourself. On the secular side, he mentions Labor on one side and in another section, Shulamit Aloni who was farther left. The accusation is that they pushed for secular education in the schools with little emphasis on traditional Jewish sources as part of the curriculum. Also, as a state, the battles between secular and religious movements were often led by politicians on matters that could have been resolved more peacefully. For example, I recall heated battles over public transportation on shabbat. In my opinion, that one is easy enough for the secular side to forego. They didn’t and fought very hard against it (they lost). Another example is more current and involves shopping or dining on shabbat. I happen to also see this one as a no-brainer but I am probably not in the majority on the secular side who have come to believe stores and restaurants can be closed – or only kept open in designated areas selected because of the population mix of secular to religious.

    I also think that because the religious in Israel are often represented in government and institutions that govern civic life by ultra-Orthodox or by greater Israel messianic types from the religious Zionist camp, many secular Israelis view them with disdain because they are so far apart in terms of culture. There is an undeniable bias and perhaps even fear of the other.

    Don’t get all excited though. The state has done a great deal for the “religious” Zionists, not to mention other streams of Orthodox, beginning with Hesder yeshivas, consent to eliminate conscription for those Orthodox who seek it, control over civic matters, significant and outsized funds for religious education, significant investment in the construction and defense of settlements, support for the yeshiva lifestyle of many Haredim including minimal taxation, support of families, and support of students even if they are married.

    These positive contributions to the “religious” camp did not always arrive quietly and with love, but rather as part of significant political battles often fought against the landscape of tenuous coalition governments. As such, over time, both sides developed a great deal of anger, resentment and antipathy towards each other.

    Allow me to conclude with Tropper’s disappointment:

    “True we are disparaged, but not for the reasons mentioned by those youngsters. We sidelined ourselves. When I moved to Israel, religious Zionism was interested mainly in education. When [the late Zevulun] Hammer was appointed education minister [in 1996], we were very excited. Today there is terrible distress in the education system, and the religious are totally preoccupied with the land of Israel. Our failure stems from not walking the middle path.

    “In general, religious Zionism should have positioned itself as the state’s moral conscience, which society sorely needs. But then you discover we behave just like everyone else, sometimes even worse.

    “What destroyed religion in Israel is its politicization. I am not in favor of separating religion from the state, but I would close down the whole rabbinic court system and completely privatize that sphere. Anyone who wishes should work in that field, and the state should institute regulations only to ensure minimum requirements. If we had fair religious courts that gave swift and appropriate rulings, everyone would run to them, with all the problems there are with the civil courts. If religious Zionism were to represent the social and moral conscience, the secular [sector] would also be in favor of it.”

    You can let your breath out now, ck.

    (This is the thanks I get for not coming after you for that Black Planet post?)

  • TM – do American Reform and Conservative Jews qualify as “Hebrew-speaking gentiles” yet?

    Considering that their knowledge of both Hebrew and Jewish history is an order of magnitude less than the Israelis who no longer flinch at shopping or dining on the Sabbath…

    Tropper cites this as an example of where the non-Orthodox side is “at fault” for the growing rift.

    If American Jews have also drifted away from core Jewish culture in the same way – doesn’t that undercut the validity of calls for “pluralism” and “inclusiveness”? Aren’t more traditional Jews justified in demanding that the common denominators be upheld?

  • No, it does not undercut anything, why should it? I mean, if you want to walk around claiming that 75% of the Jewish population of Israel is gentile-like and that you reject them, that’s all well and good but why don’t you start right now by refusing all tax money that comes from secular Israelis, all government authority including police and military protection that has secular involvement and simply go live in a ghetto in Ramallah?

    Otherwise, why don’t you try to help people like Tropper build bridges?

    Same goes for the Jews outside of Israel. You should try to open doors instead of shutting them. And by the way, I have no doubt that your definition of “common denominators” is an exclusionary one. Why don’t you try to make it an inclusive one on the basis that most Jews in the world today will not meet your standards otherwise? After all, you and your community wouldn’t be where you are nor would you be able to survive without the support of those other Jews.

  • Middle gets muddled:
    why don’t you try to help people like Tropper build bridges?
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    uh, Tropper’s been trying to build bridges for 30 years – the comment about secular Israeli drift is his sad conclusion AFTER thirty years of talking and listening.

    Remember?

    The point is that Troper says – fairly and even-handedly, as befits someone who’s devoted decades to dialogue – that BOTH sides must take blame for the widening rift. And he says that the secular blame lies in their drift away from the common denominator of received Judaism – a drift which The Rest of Us cannot be expected to accommodate indefinitely.

    And you then quoted this bit of Tropper’s words in the exact same vein – implying that all sides must take some blame.

    So I ask – again! – the next logical question: If 30 years of dialogue with Hebrew-speaking, culturally-aware, homeland-defending secular Israelis leads to this conclusion – haven’t stateside Reform and Conservative Judaism also drifted too far from normative, authentic Judaism – and can’t they, too, can be partially “blamed” or held responsible for the widening rift because of this continuing drift/dilution?

    In that case the breast-beating, melodramatic calls for “plurality” and “inclusiveness” are fairly answered by the balancing claim that the “progressive” movments have drifted out of proximity to Jewish morality, ideas, and practice – and the gap that has opened is therefore not all the fault of Orthodox “intolerance”.

    I see two possibilities:

    1) You really agree with Tropper – in which case all your future diatribes about Those Darn Rabbis must, in fairness, include a balancing statement about how “progressive Jews must also realize that they cannot stretch indefinitely the received traditions of Judaism, and they are also responsible in part for the growing rift in the Jewish people”.

    Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath on that one…

    2) You don’t agree with Tropper and misquoted his words to give a false IMPRESSION of even-handedness, but you really don’t think R & C Judaism are at all responsible for the rifts in the Jewish world – and don’t think any of Those Darn Rabbis have a right to critique any of “progressive” Judaism’s choices. In other words, you really do believe it’s all the fault of those close-minded, cliquishly tribal Orthos – and that ALL “progressive” innovations must be accepted.

    So which is it?

    Please set aside the scenery-chewing wimpering about my supposed “exclusionary” ideas, and the grandstanding about Israeli tax dollars – which is particularly odious directed from a stateside Yid to a tax-paying Israeli like me.

    Answer the question, please: are secular Jews partially to blame for the growing rift because of their drift from our common, received Jewish heritage?

  • Middle,

    I’ve been hung up, but I wanted to thank you much for the grammar award; if only my vanity weren’t such that I plan to frame a copy and intersperse it with my Franklin Mint collection. At any rate, it’s some sweet redemption for the 4th grade spelling bee I lost in the final round, when I agonized over and missed the “c” in “conscience”.

    Well, it’s good to see that you’re the one guilty of odious grandstanding, melodramatic diatribes, and scenery-chewing whimpering for the moment, not me. I don’t have time to do so right now, but I’m glad you still have the topic up and will finish a comment soon. I’d love to see if there’s someone who might point out the deficiencies in my argument without being a foul-mouthed, ill-mannered boor.

    Quickly, though, I have to say I’m skeptical of Tropper’s analysis here. I realize his approach is consonant with your very appellation, but I’m temperamentally uncomfortable with the overused “two-sides-to-every-story” formulation. Sometimes there are, and sometimes there aren’t; just because opposing sides are equally passionate about a dispute doesn’t mean they’re equally culpable for bringing it about or preventing its resolution.

    Ben-David offers, once again, the stock Orthodox claim that Conservative and Reform Jews are the intolerant ones for insisting on acceptance. Just one quick illustration: Instead of Reform Judaism, let’s substitute something approximately as abhorrent to the Orthodox; homosexuality. The question then becomes: Aren’t homosexuals as responsible for the “rift” by committing sodomy as the Orthodox are for condemning it as an abomination against God? The short answer: No. Tolerance means, “if you don’t like sodomy, don’t do it; but keep your snout out of my bedroom.” If you refuse to tolerate such conduct (or even if you “can’t” tolerate it because God told you so, which seems to be the favorite explanation of the Orthodox for their policies), feel free to say so. But there’s nothing intolerant about homosexuals sodomizing each other till the cows come home.

  • Missed one thing: the intolerance against sodomy isn’t in “condemning it as an abomination against God.” It should have read, “condemning it and denying their civil rights.

  • Ben David, that was a really long comment considering I had already addressed your question above. Just read what I wrote, it’s clear.

    I will also do you the favor of ignoring your ongoing personal comments. Are you unable to express the same ideas without the personal comments?

    Your conclusion that somehow you guys can’t wait indefinitely entirely misses what he’s saying. The point is that when you create exclusionary forces – he is calling the Rabbinate one such force – you are likely to repel others. When you take care of your own by ensuring that a religious education is mandated for your kids but you don’t bother to ensure that the rest of the kids also receive an education with Jewish content, you are likely to see a generation move away from their roots.

    Is it the fault of secular politicians for not requiring that Judaism and Torah be a meaningful part of public education? Sure. But then again, they are…secular and may not focus too much on this.

  • Middle –
    1) You did not address my rather direct question – now repeated several times. Nor has d. smith, for all his light-hearted tap-dancing.

    2) I have actually been toning down the personal attacks – my remarks were meant to call attention to your wriggling out of my question using emotional double-talk.

    And the part about an American Jew getting uffishly self-righteous at ME about Israeli tax dollars – no, that’s ludicrous, pathetic, and totally unacceptable.

    3) You talk again about “exclusion” – but that’s just a solipsism, as I (and Tropper) directly address the limits of that claim: for if the secular CAN be validly called to task for drifting too far from received Judaism, then there ARE valid limits to the tolerance of their innovations. At that limit, claims of “exclusion” lose their force.

    This is the issue you persistently avoid addressing.

    4) Your take on education in Israel nicely encapsulates your Ortho-bashing take – but the fact is that the Religious Zionists looked out for themselves largely because that was pretty much all they could do – old-line Labor with its secularizing program was still riding high at that point. A lot of the talk about how Religious Zionism should have done more for others ignores (conveniently) just how hostile to religion the environment was back then.

    The bald truth is that Jewish studies were diluted from the general curriculum because that generation of parents didn’t care about it. And much of the currrent demand for more Judaism in the curriculum reflects the new cultural influence of the religious Zionists.

    5) Please address the question: is it valid for the Rest of Us to assert that there are limits to “progressive” innovation? Do the “progressive” movements then bear some of the responsibility for the growing rift between themselves and The Rest Of Us?

  • 1. Yes I did.

    2. I don’t “wriggle” out of anything. My answers are direct and to the point. You know that well after months of coming here.

    I don’t care about your tax dollars, I care about their use because I care about Israeli society.

    3. What innovations? Most secular Israelis do not belong to Masorti or Progressive. They are simply living their lives in Israel. There is no limit to the tolerance you can show them. Tolerance? That’s rich. They are tolerant of your telling them they can’t have public transport or shopping or dining out on Shabbat; of subsidizing and then defending with their bodies your settlements; of subsidizing your educational system which receives more funds per student than their own schools; of submitting to your control over their civic rights. Yet, you continue to blast them and have the nerve to talk about how far you can go before you have to reject them. Sheer chutzpah.

    You were on much more solid ground when you were criticizing Conservative and Reform Judaism since they are based in North America and you can at least make the claim that they consciously and knowledgeably try to practice differently than you.

    So let’s be clear so that you don’t accuse me of running away from your question: secular Israelis are living as Jewishly as they know and believe, their primary model of observance being the Orthodox in Israel. If you reject them, it is because of you and not because of any innovations. And you do not belong in Tropper’s camp. He was trying to build bridges.

    4. I agree with you that this is an area where secular Israelis and their politicians are to blame. And yet, I cannot imagine how the observant parties were able to win tons of money for their schools and their population, but were unable to demand a simple overhaul of the basics in the rest of the Israeli educational system. Of course they could have but it wasn’t important to them because they perceive the non-observant as “others” and often as inferior Jews. This is a prime example of an arena where the blame lies on both sides.

    5. Yes, it’s valid for you to assert that there are limits to innovation.

    Yes, a small amount of the blame lies at the feet of non-Orthodox streams.

    However, since the rejectionism comes from the Orthodox camp, and since they control the Rabbinate as well as the Ministry of Religious Affairs, it’s hard to accept that these other movements bear equivalent blame just because they have different dogmas than yours.

    Ultimately, you can have all the disagreements you want, just stop using the government and the public sphere as your whip and pulpit. You need to make your claims as equal citizens.

  • Middle –

    My focus has been consistently on the parallel between Tropper’s statements about his experience here in Israel and the R & C movements’ use of plurality-based argments – both here and in the diaspora. I specifically direct the question to “stateside Judaism”.

    You have responded with a garbled screed on Israeli politics that recycles cliches long since dissected and deflated – some of them on this very blog.

    Again, you have dodged my question – Is it valid for The Rest of Us – in Israel OR America – to not accommodate R&C innovations that drift too far from received Judaism?

    Do self-styles “progressives” – take the ones you live with, please spare us the second-hand armchair punditry about Israel – do the “progressivs” have an obligation to respect the already well-established core moral/ritual codes of Judaism as part of holding up their end of the communal identity? And if they don’t, can they still fairly denounce their brethren for “rejectionism”?

  • Middle,

    I’d very much like to hear your take on this , because my views on this matter have recently undergone substantial revision. Specifically, until even the past few days my beliefs were shaped by the assumption that if only a certain number of people of good will could be found on both sides, they might identify some type of reasonable accommodation and basis for unity. Frankly, that view now strikes me as hopelessly naïve, and I’ve come to the conclusion that attempting anything more than a cosmetic rapprochement is an exercise in futility.

    What is the Source of the Rift? It’s clear that the current rift between the Orthodox and (more) secular worlds is rooted in fundamental differences in political ideology, social experience and religious doctrine. I think Tropper largely avoids the question of culpability, instead narrowly focusing on the ways in which the Orthodox and secular have respectively contributed to the existence and scope of the divide that separates them. The Orthodox, for their part, have explicitly stated that Conservative and Reform Jews practice an alien, deviant heresy, and have maintained a complete monopoly on all state-sanctioned religious functions. The non-Orthodox and secular, in turn, have contributed to the gulf by increasingly turning away from the practice of Judaism of any kind.

    Can the Rift be Healed? Irrespective of its source, is there any way to bridge the chasm of hostility between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox worlds that was first fully exposed with the tectonic shift of Rabin’s assassination. Part of the problem is undoubtedly the existence of lingering mistrust and suspicion. (Along with 9/11, the assassination was one of the most horrifyingly traumatic public events of my life. Contributing to the obscenity of the assassination itself, there appeared to be no widespread condemnation among the Orthodox of the diseased ideology that fed Amir’s hatred, only indignation at the suggestion that those who designated Rabin a rodef bore responsibility for his murder.)

    I think the dispute is more intractable than a mere question of trust, however. Shy Guy was kind enough to provide me a link to something called TrueJew.org, which, along with so much more, quotes The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada as follows:

    Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all, but another religion which is repugnant not only to Torah Judaism, but also to common morality. Moreover, “[h]aving been falsely led to believe by heretical leaders that Reform and Conservative are legitimate branches or denominations of Judaism, we urge [Conservative and Reform Jews to] withdraw from your affiliation with Reform and Conservative temples and their clergy. Do not hesitate to attend an Orthodox synagogue due to your inadequate observance of Judaism.

    What kind of “compromise” is even conceivable, given the Orthodox claim that Reform and Conservative Judaism are not merely erroneous, but comprise an alien religion altogether? Legitimacy is a bottom-line issue that is no more negotiable than is Israel’s right to exist when negotiating with the Palestinians. Part of the obstacle, I think, is that the Orthodox claim that their assessment – like virtually everything else that comes out of their mouths – is not based upon a new decision in Jewish Law, but is as old as Sinai. Compromise becomes rather difficult when every pronouncement is the unmediated, divine revelation of God. Accordingly, the sole manner that the rift can be healed is for Conservative and Reform Jews to stop sinning and to admit their heresy. That, I suspect, is likely to be quite some time in coming.

    Should the Rift Be Healed? This is where my views have evolved, and why I’m no longer sanguine even about the desirability of reconciliation, much less its likelihood. Partly, this is a response to the gratuitously offensive character of the Orthodox position. One might have expected the Orthodox Rabbis to have stated that there is a fundamental doctrinal conflict with the non-Orthodox – such as that pertaining to patrilineal descent, for example – that regrettably renders the denominations theologically incompatible. The claim, instead, that Conservative and Reform Judaism are not merely erroneous, but “repugnant to common morality” makes clear to me that we’re dealing with a committed enemy, not a loyal opponent. I just have to assume they use the other sides of their mouths when parsing intricate Talmudic cases of loshon hara.

    The Orthodox establishment is obsessed with disproving the halachic basis of Conservative Judaism, invariably arguing that Conservatism is a no more than a permissive dilution of Orthodox standards, with no affirmative principles of its own. That claim is intellectually incoherent and spiritually bankrupt, as reflected in several illustrations. There’s the Orthodox obsession with homosexuality, for example. They point to the Conservative tolerance of homosexuality as evidence that it is halachically fraudulent, dragging out as “proof” its direct prohibition in the Torah. And yet, the Torah similarly proscribes – in the same chapter and under penalty of death, no less – sex during menstruation, eating chametz during Pesach, disobedience to one’s father, and negligent handling of oxen. It’s hard to believe the Orthodox rabbis are relying on an argument this empty and dishonest; I only wish someone could provide me with one more convincing.

    A comparable illustration is the recent incident concerning Aaron’s Best, the largest seller of kosher meats in the country. As always, the Orthodox focus solely on the purely technical requirements of kashrut, with seemingly no concern whatever for the ethical obligations that are essential to Conservative Judaism. To my knowledge, there are explicit halachic prohibitions against exploiting and abusing one’s employees, violating assorted governmental regulations, and stealing from the public. And yet, as long as no microscopic airborne particles of pig feces were detected within a 10-mile radius of the plant, one heard nothing from the Orthodox community about these halachic transgressions but deafening silence. Conservative standards of kashrut in such a case are more stringent than the Orthodox, and Aaron’s Best products should likely be deemed treif.

    One last example comes from my own personal experience. Some years ago, my father was in the latter stages of terminal cancer and was being treated locally by an Orthodox radiologist. One Friday afternoon, he was suddenly unable to walk, and was told by over the phone by his oncologist that this was a dire emergency, and that he faced a good probability of paralysis were he not seen by the radiologist within the next several hours. He called the office, but was told the doctor was leaving shortly for shabbos, and that he couldn’t possibly see him. We ended up taking him to the hospital emergency room, where he waited in agony until being treated by a doctor that knew nothing about him or his case.

    This latter example reflects the extent to which the Orthodox have fetishized shabbos and kashrut, virtually to the point of idolatry. As opposed to the Conservative insistence on introspection and compliance with the spirit of the law, the Orthodox seemingly emphasize only those mitzvot that can be precisely counted – like tics on the Times Square clock of the National Debt – and that lend themselves to puritanical self-abnegation and vulgar displays of public piety.

    In America, I believe the reluctance among Reform and Conservative Jews to criticize the Orthodox reflects a certain sensitivity to the legacy of intolerance by the established Jewish community toward observant Eastern European Jews, like my grandparents, upon their immigration to the United States in the early 20th Century. Moreover, many less observant Jews were gratified by the prominence of Orthodox communities, and took pride in seeing Jews living in a manner that openly expressed their Jewishness.

    I suspect that nearly the entirety of Reform and Conservative Jewry is oblivious to the fact that the feeling is anything but mutual, that they are the objects of scorn and contempt by the Orthodox establishment. Given this state of affairs, I’m convinced that the appropriate course of action is to simply inform Conservative and Reform Jews that the Orthodox regard their religious practices as alien, morally repugnant heresies that must be eradicated wherever possible. Were they so informed, I suspect a substantial number of Reform and Conservative Jews will begin to regard the Orthodox as a distant, insular sect with which they share no meaningful cultural values, and on behalf of whose causes or institutions they should expend not a penny of their political and financial resources. Along these same lines, I would likewise urge that non-Orthodox Jews become conscious of the policies of the Chief Rabbinate, and refrain from supporting, politically or financially, any effort that props up the institution that is the source of formal discrimination against them.

  • D.,

    I am nowhere near as pessimistic as you.

    I agree that there are significant hurdles to overcome, including some that seem to indicate the impossibility of any rapprochement. I agree that the rejectionism of some Orthodox,, even moderates, toward the Reform and Conservative movements to which the bulk of North American Jewry belong, is so absolute as to present what may be an insurmountable obstacle.

    Yet, I still believe that there is plenty of room to bridge the gaps and find common ground.

    First, let’s remember that we’re talking about numerous streams, even among the Orthodox. Even within those streams, people will believe and follow certain ideas that won’t correspond to what others believe or follow. Therefore, I cannot look at the Orthodox and consider them to be one sector of the Jewish population – they are many sectors.

    Second, ideals and movements can be changed over time. Just as these movements moved away from their interaction with Conservative and Reform streams over time, why can one not envision a move in the other direction? The radicalism that the UO statement you provided reveals was not their position 20 years earlier. I can and do hope that things can go in the opposite direction.

    Three, the bottom line is that ideals are ideals and people are people. If you look at this site and the harrowing debates that we’ve had here in the past weeks (and previously at other times), as an objective observer you would think that we were at each other’s throats. Perhaps we are on the page (digital “page” in this case), but in life I consider ck, Rabbi Yonah and yes, Laya, to be friends. I share many ideas, hopes, beliefs, cultural values, ideology and a common heritage with them. My son, raised as differently from Rabbi Yonah’s son as he is, will also share many things in common with his son.

    I’m not just saying that. There are many commonalities not to mention a shared history and culture – and no, there are no bagels involved here. It is one of the incredible things that makes Israel work despite the 100 odd nations from which its citizens originate and the numerous differences in religious practice and knowledge among groups. We share a history and a culture – even if their ultimate meaning is different to each of us.

    This sharing brings us close and helps us to understand the other.

    Fourth, the Orthodox who are so strident, and even those who aren’t, are not doing this out of spite. Perhaps there are those who truly dislike or hate other streams. I don’t think that that’s what is going on here. I think we are seeing a defense mechanism. Let’s face it, it’s hard to be Orthodox in our world. It’s not just faith that will push you through, it is also a willingness to either put on blinders or find complex explanations within the context of the faith, halacha and torah for those things that the Enlightenment and the centuries since have perhaps made clear to the two of us.

    This defensiveness is not only a function of protecting themselves and their young from outside adverse influences, but it is also due to what some of our commenters tell us over and over – the demographics. There is no question that in our society, without some of the velvet handcuffs of Orthodoxy, many Conservative, and to a much greater extent Jews from other non-Orthodox movements, are assimilating. It’s not just a function of intermarriage either, although that is a significant part of it, but also of the attendant cultural and historical attenuation (which are, of course, based on our basic common religious practices) resulting from lack of concern or care or even basic knowledge.

    The Orthodox are simply shielding themselves from what they perceive (and some of the numbers are bearing them out) as the self-destruction of the Jewish identity of a large chunk of the Jewish population as Jews.

    To sum up, all of the above tells me that even if some of these Orthodox efforts to dismiss other movements are severely misguided, which I believe they are, they are not being done out of malice. They are being done with the intent of preservation. You can be more lenient when the stakes aren’t so high. However, the stakes are high right now – I feel that probably no less than any Orthodox commenter we have here or Rabbi at the UOR. It’s one of the reasons I post on Jewlicious.

    I think that as I write, people like ck, R. Yonah, Laya and many others who are active in their respective communities, are showing that they do want to reach out to Jews of other movements. In fact, they are willing to selflessly dedicate a good portion of their lives toward this end. Trust me on this, it’s not because of money, it’s because they consider this outreach to be of utmost importance. By the way, this outreach does not involve any proselytizing. If you come to Jewlicious at the Beach, or as you hear about the ck/Laya led Birthright trips, it is evident that they hope to kindle a flame of recognition and passion toward Judaism and toward Israel, but they do not push their beliefs, practices or ideas upon others. At most, they will share them by example.

    Instead of what you suggest in your last paragraph, I propose the opposite. Smother the Orthodox with love, with a desire to share their fate and our heritage, with constant reminders that we are here and no less Jewish than they, with debates that force them to consider their views, with visits to their synagogues and schools where they meet Conservative and Reform in person, etc. There is a reason many Orthodox rabbis have decided to advocate for harsh separation from other streams and it relates to demonizing the other and eliminating the influence of the other upon them. It is important that we do not allow them to do this. Further division only hurts all of us.

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