The newly installed Chief Rabbi of the UK Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, to his great credit, has realized that he is not the Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak, but of a broad Modern Orthodox and not so Orthodox community. He has declared he is going to attend. Good for him, and at last someone prepared to be true to his values. He was immediately and publicly attacked by the High and Mighty. Surprisingly, some other important rabbis not hitherto considered extreme, joined the nay chorus. At least Rabbi Mirvis has the guts to stand firm where others crumbled.
But what does this tell us about the Charedi world? It is one in which they resort to bully tactics to impose their point of view and one in which, ostrich-like, they think that if they bury their heads in the sand the problem will disappear.
The world of those committed to Torah and living it and studying it with passion is growing exponentially. But at the same time it is also facing a serious crisis. Latest figures show that while the employment rate amongst Orthodox Jews is 80%, amongst Charedi Jews it is 40%. What is the response of the leadership? To pretend there’s no problem. To go on insisting that any secular studies are against Torah, to bluster and ban and condemn.
There are millions of Jews out there eager for a passionate, Torah-imbued but reasonable and rational alternative. Most Jews are abandoning Judaism out of sheer ignorance. There are talented Charedi teachers who can show the depth and beauty of our tradition to Jews, regardless of denomination. But for reasons I cannot honestly fathom some rabbis still refuse to condone Jews going to Limmud to study.
Limmud is not an agency for according recognition. It is not a religious authority. It is simply a very successful forum for Jewish study and Jewish life of all sorts. There is not one good reason why any Jew should not go there to teach or to interact.