To me that was not a violation of the ban since it was made clear by both Rabbi Reinman and Rabbi Hirsch (in the book and in the book tour) that Orthodoxy does not accept Reform Judaism as legitimate. That was a lost opportunity in my view. More harm than good resulted from that ban.
Which brings me to what happened in England recently. The new British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis bucked a warning issued by Charedi Dayan Rav Chanoch Ehrentrau and attended Limmud. What is Limmud? From Ynet:
In Britain there is an annual conference where laypeople can go and study Torah known as Limmud. This conference is multi-denominational and teachers from all movements within Judaism from Reform to Orthodox attend.
After Rabbi Mirvis said he would attend Limmud – here is what followed:
The response was shock by Ehrentreu and his orthodox colleagues, who wrote a letter accusing Mirvis of action that will “bring about tragic consequences for Anglo Jewry.
Tragic consequences?! That he had the opportunity to reach out to many secular Jews will have tragic consequences?! I’m sure he was talking about the recognition that he perceived would result from Rabbi Mirvis’s attendance. I do not see his attendance as recognition. As I understand it, this is nothing more than a teaching session. There is no interaction between the rabbis there.
I agree with those that say that Rav Ehrentrau and other like minded Rabbonim are fighting battles from the past. Where once these heterodox movements were a danger to Orthodoxy – threatening to take away our members, the reverse is now true. We are the ones taking away from their numbers. The danger now is apathy. Most young non observant Jews do not seem to care at all about their Judaism. That is evidenced by Pew study which found that 70% of them intermarry.
The fact is that when it comes to reaching out to non denominational young Jews – we are actually on the same page. We all want to stop the hemorrhaging . Both Conservative and Reform leaders understand the error of their forebears ways in abandoning or tolerating reduced or no ritual observance. A lot of non Jews share our ethics. When Judaism is watered down to ethics, there isn’t much reason to be Jewish. Something we Orthodox have known all along.
Instead of competing with Orthodoxy these movements now want to cooperate with us. Even Reform has switched gears and now advocates more Mitzvah observance. When a secular Jew becomes Orthodox both denominations now consider that a victory. While it is still important to not be seen giving non Orthodox movements recognition, why not let them help us reach out to unaffiliated young Jews? What better way to do that than what Rabbi Mirvis is doing?
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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