Inclusion or Division?

Yeshiva University Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm has created quite a stir over his recent comments in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. He stated that the future of American Jewry is in the “hands of haredim and the modern Orthodox.” But in doing so, he managed to completely disregard the significance of both the Conservative and Reform movements of Judaism.

He said the Reform movement “may show a rise, because if you add goyim to Jews you will do OK.” (By goyim he appears to be suggesting that Jews of patrilineal descent are not Jewish in any way; the derogatory way in which he wields that word serves as yet another example of how it is not “neutral” as some would claim.) He added that the “Reform movement is out of the picture, because they were never got into the picture, and the Conservatives are getting out of the picture,” and then implied non-Orthodox Judaism is watered down. What’s interesting though is that amidst Rabbi Lamm’s statements, the Post lets the reader know that according to the most recent National Jewish Population Survey, the Reform movement is still nearly twice as large as the Orthodox.

At the same time, Yeshiva University President Richard Joel was attending a convention of the Rabbinical Council of America in Teaneck, NJ. The headline in the New Jersey Jewish Standard read: “Orthodox rabbis promote ‘inclusiveness’ at Teaneck confab.” Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, co-chair of the conference, was quoted as saying “We want to show that… the Orthodox world is not monolithic,” and that inside Orthodox Judaism’s big tent there is “room for a variety of opinions within halacha, and especially for individual community articulations of that community vision.”

Sounds like two different heads on the same body. One is promoting inclusiveness and a willingness to work with others; the other is using the kind of outdated language that only causes division within Judaism. Let’s hope people choose to listen to the former.

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