NEW YORK (Mar. 27)
The leader of the Reform movement’s congregational body has hailed an Orthodox leader’s statements calling for moderation among Orthodox Jews.
“This is the kind of voice that I and many others have been longing to hear. You express the kind of Orthodoxy that I was taught to revere,” wrote Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, in a letter to Dr. Norman Lamm, president of New York’s Yeshiva University.
The letter, written last Thursday, is in reference to a speech by Lamm in which he outlined the agenda for adherents to what he called Orthodoxy’s “centrist camp.”
His speech, delivered Tuesday night at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue and reported in The New York Times, sought to differentiate centrist Orthodoxy — defined by Lamm as Zionist, open to secular culture and tolerant of different opinions — from more extreme ultra-Orthodox elements.
According to the newspaper, Lamm criticized “certain Hasidic elements” for continuing to press for “who is a Jew” legislation in Israel that would recognize only Orthodox conversions for those wishing to enter the country as Jews.
The legislation, which has been defeated in the Knesset, would serve to further delegitimize Reform and Conservative rabbis and their movements in Israel.
In referring to those movements, Lamm said, “Centrist Orthodoxy holds that one must indeed disagree with the non-Orthodox, but we must do so respectfully.”
Still, said Lamm, “I’ve never experienced such open hostility toward the Orthodox” from the non-Orthodox groups as now.
Schindler made no reference to that statement in his short letter, which he concluded by writing, “If ever there was a time when the center of our community must hold, it is now.”