Sunday, September 03, 2006


There was a commetary a few weeks ago in the Jewish News of Greater
that advocated re-examining the concept of Pluralism. The idea of Pluralism is an old one that has been rejected by virtually all Poskim, including Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Pluralism entails working with non-Orthodox groups, specifically with Reform and Conservative movements on areas of mutual concern. The reason such organizations have been forbidden is because it legitimizes groups of Jews that accept apostasy. Any official religious organization which includes Orthodox rabbis together with Conservative and Reform rabbis obviously appears to do that.

I have recently advocated taking another look at how we might engage with non-Orthodox groups. But in my view doing so organizationally is unacceptable.

In non-Organizational contexts, there may be some merit but, great care must be taken so that safeguards are in place. We need to insure that there is no tacit endorsement of any apostasies in cooperative situations. What form that cooperation might take is a matter for debate. But I think that in some instances it should be allowed, as I have said before.

The commentary in this periodical mentions the short lived and now defunct Denver Beis Din. From the article:

“In the late 1970s and early 1980s in Denver there was a now infamous, cross-denominational beit din, rabbinic court, convened in relative secrecy to oversee conversions.”

This was a very interesting experiment with the best of intentions. I believe Dr. Norman Lamm was involved in its formulation. If I remember correctly, it was to be governed by Halacha and agreed to by all parties. That meant that if the Orthodox Rabbinate was to participate, all conversions would by definition have to be done by
Orthodox standards. (Kosher Eidim, Kabbalas Ol, Hatafas Dam Bris for men, Kosher Mikva… etc.)

As it pertains to conversions, this is certainly better than having three separate Batei Din each with its own parameters ...with Conservative claiming to be Halachic when in fact it isn't by Orthodox standards. This is what the conversion situation is now and it has caused major headaches, especially for people in Kiruv who encounter many young people who consider themselves Jewish but whose mothers were converted by Reform or Conservative rabbis.

But even though the Denver Beis Din would solve this kind of problem, it was not allowed in the end. That was because even if clear Halacha Psuka was used which would insure that every single conversion in Denver was legitimate, it was never the less deemed that Orthodox involvement would signal a tacit endorsement of the heretical movements of Conservative and Reform Judaism I therefore agree that it should not be allowed. But it was an intriguing solution to a real problem. And it was quite an achievement by those who designed that Beis Din to get the Conservative and Reform movements in Denver to agree to have only Halachic Conversions as defined by Orthodoxy. But we cannot join in any official way with movements which allow Apikursus. That undermines the very foundation of our beliefs.