Professor Wertheimer does note that there are problems as in the push back by Conservative rabbis who see Habad (for example) poaching their members. Ironically the most critical of it are the Orthodox themselves. Among them is Rabbi Ilan Feldman who discussed the issue in Klal Perspectives (I posted about it a while ago:
“Frum communities as cultures are simply not conducive to outreach,” he believes, because those communities have a defensive perspective and don’t welcome Jewish seekers who are not yet planted in the Orthodox life. Put differently, outreach workers of necessity develop a far more empathic understanding of the non-Orthodox population than do other sectors of the Orthodox world.
There is much more in his article. It is a very worthwhile read. I highly recommend it.
My hat is off to Professor Wertheimer. It almost sounds like he would like to see a merger of all movements into one that will truly be guided by Halacha… and that he is willing to concede the process to Orthodox outreach. I wonder how the hierarchy in his own movement feels about an essay like this. Or about him.
What are the implications of all this for Orthodox Jews? Should we become more directly involved with Hetrodox rabbis? Habad already is.They have no problem appearing on the same platform with Conservative rabbis. But most of the Orthodox leadership has always rejected that – claiming that it would amount to giving them legitimacy. I agree that we should not do anything that would do that.
But where do we draw the line? If the goal is making Jews more observant there ought to be some leeway in this regard. Our battles with the Conservative movement are over. They no longer pose a threat to Orthodoxy. Now that the Conservative movement is shrinking all on their own, we need to re-think this issue. Without getting into specifics (which I am not at liberty to say) I detect that this is already beginning to happen quietly with tacit approval even from the right. And that is a good thing.
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