The Annual Agudah convention is in progress now. The theme this year is Kiruv… outreach to the larger Jewish community. I’m not sure how they are going to address that issue but upon looking at the makeup of their speaker list and the Kiruv Organizations, I am once again disappointed by Agudah. They they did not include what is perhaps the only Kiruv organization that deals with high school teenagers, NCSY. I of course realize that NCSY is not a member of Agudah and is in fact a subsidiary of the OU… their crowning jewel in fact.
But why should that have prevented them from including speakers from this wonderful and highly successful organization? What better way to show Achdus than including a Kiruv group that has in fact been Mekarev many of Agudah’s own membership. In fact, some of its biggest Askanim, people who are at the highest levels of lay leadership in Agudah type organizations started out in NCSY. People like my good friend Rabbi Jack Rajchenbach who recently proudly and publicly acknowledged that at an NCSY banquet.
As has been the case in many recent events, I am disappointed, but not suprised. To paraphrase Abba Eban, Agudah never misses and opportunity to miss an opportunity. Every time there is an opportunity to show some Achdus with their modern Orthodox brothers, they turn it down.
I am also curious how they will address another very important Kiruv issue. What approach does one take in outreach to Jewish college youth? Most of college students believe in an ancient universe and even evolution. Considering the fact that only fundamentalist/literalist views on creation and the age of the universe are now acceptable, what do they tell them? Is there even a snowball’s chance of not being laughed out of the room, when the answer to the question about… say dinosaurs… is that they were created as skeletons already buried in the earth less than six thousand years ago?
When the books by Rabbi Slifkin were banned by Rav Elyashiv, one of the reasons given was that belief in an ancient universe is heresy… Kiruv professionals, even right wing ones involved on college campuses were stopped in their tracks! Up to that point, they were telling college youth that belief in an ancient universe was compatible with Judaism. How do they deal with that now? Will Agudah have any real answers that will satisfy these college students?
I will never forget Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky response to the ban on Rabbi Slifkin’s books: He is a Kiruv professional that used those books among others to show that Judaism is perfectly compatible with beliefs in an ancient universe.
After the ban, he stated something to the effect he had to do Teshuva for doing that. And then he declared that if he were Rabbi Slifkin, he would get on his hands and knees begging Rav Elyashiv for ways to do Teshuva for writing those books… not as Rabbi Slifkin has done. Rabbi Slifkin attempted to get a meeting with Rav Elyashiv to try and explain his books. And upon whom he relied on for his Hashkafos e.g. Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, among others.
Is Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky’s attitude going to be the approach of Agudah at this convention? Is it even going to be part of the discussion there? There is a lot at stake here. A lot depends on how these questions are dealt with. Are they going to declare their own ban on using allegorical interpretations of the six days of creation? Or will they finally have the courage to publicly disagree with R. Elyashiv’s view and say that his opinion is not the only legitimate one.
Well see. But I’m not going to hold my breath for a satisfactory outcome.