I believe that this is the primary issue that is at play here. Since Lipman is straddling two worlds, he is by definition persona non grata in the Ultra-Orthodox world. One can’t be for Torah and also cavort with people who are not for Torah. Therefore he is automatically wrong and all the rules of fair play and honesty are no longer relevant. He is a threat who must be stopped. He is not a voice that must be answered. This is the only explanation for the completely disingenuous and false attacks against Lipman.
It’s an old argument within orthodox Judaism. For some time now there has been resistance against fostering debate and conversation amongst people with differing views and perspectives. Worse, it has long been established that orthodox Rabbis may not sit on organizations with non-orthodox Jews lest it be perceived as endorsement of non-orthodox values. I don’t think it’s a great tactic, nor do I think it’s wise in the long run. Writing for Tradition Magazine, Rabbi Shubert Spero addressed this issue in 1966 and we can see how things have changed since then. Rabbi Spero was writing about engaging non-orthodox Jews. Engaging orthodox Jews wasn’t an issue in 1966.
Look where we are today. We still don’t participate with non-orthodox Jews. In fact the Yated recently addressed this very issue, going so far as to compare Reform Jews in the mid-20th century with the Women of the Wall and MK Lipman. The Yated takes for granted that it would be prohibited to work together with Reform Jews, the additional point was that this rule would also apply to WoW and Lipman. In 1966 Rabbi Spero was hopeful that orthodox Jews could participate with non-orthodox Jews. Here we stand in 2013 and orthodox Jews cannot participate with orthodox Jews who associate with non-orthodox Jews! It seems to me we are going in the wrong direction.
What will it take to change the tenor of discourse in the orthodox Jewish community? I don’t know. Maybe an Asifa. An achdus Asifa.
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About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.
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