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Lamm Attacks Fragmentization Among Orthodox Jews in U.S.

June 21, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Dr. Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University, decried last night the “intolerant fragmentization which endangers the continued vitality and creativity of the Orthodox Jewish community in the United States.”

Lamm made his comments in an address to 400 delegates at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Council of America here. He said “a monistic approach within Orthodoxy which imposes a homogenized sameness in thought and practice is both religiously inauthentic and socially destructive. It has the virtue of consistency but it lacks a communal conscience. Unity is confused with uniformity and a divisive intolerance is rampant within our ranks.”

“Diversity within the discipline of Jewish law,” Lamm explained, “is a reflection of the dynamics of our faith. The sages of the Talmud offered varying opinions but a harmonious unity emerged to guide Jewish practice. In philosophic thought a variety of systems coexisted, each reflecting one of the 70 faces of the Torah. A mutual respect of each other’s singularity in interpretation and style generally prevailed.”

Lamm also said “one can even respect the dissenting views of the Satmar Hasidim in their anti-Zionism but one must utterly reject their going public, thereby giving encouragement and strength to the enemies of our people. One can allow for the good intentions and integrity of the so-called doves in Israel who argue for greater concessions to the Arabs but it is irresponsible and indefensible to express these views through the columns of the anti-Zionist press. Within Orthodoxy, pluralism is to be welcomed as a healthy phenomenon. A narrow authoritarianism which assigns pejorative labels to contrary views must be resisted as totally destructive.”

At the same session, Julius Berman, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, declared “there are urgent immediate problems facing the Orthodox Jewish world which require the cooperation of all groups, regardless of their differing ideologies and emphases, if we are to survive the dangers which threaten us all. The competitive Intolerance and divisive parochialism within Orthodoxy drain our strength and dilute our effectiveness. The common enemy is secularism and religious ignorance, and it is imperative that we find a common ground on which to cooperate in the preservation of our Torah way of life.”

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