|Rabbi Asher Lopatin|
Sometimes I wonder if the right wing really does care about the rest of Klal Yisroel. Oh, they pay lip service to it. There is a lot of talk about reaching out to our secular brethren. And there are Kiruv organizations run by the right that do a pretty good job reaching out to fellow non observant Jews.
But after reading the constant barrage of attacks against those who have crossed some lines in their attempt to reach out, I am beginning to think that Kiruv, is at best an afterthought. That they care a lot more about their own piety than they do about their fellow Jew.
It seems that ever since Rabbi Lopatin invited the leaders of Reform and Conservative Jewry to give their perspectives on practical rabbinics in our day, there has been one relentless attack after another. Not a word about his intent. Only about how much damage he did by departing from tradition and the wise counsel of the previous generation of Gedolim that forbade any interaction with them.
Even Centrist Rabbis (whom I count myself among) wrote an open critical letter to Rabbi Lopatin. As I said in an earlier post, It’s not so much that I disagree with them. But I would not have signed the letter. I know Rabbi Lopatin. He is a uniter and despite my disagreements with him he deserves a lot better than he is getting from – not only the right wing, but even from Centrists like me.
He should be left alone be given the chance to bridge the gaps he so fervently wants to bridge. Rabbi Lopatin’s invitations to the Conservative and Reform movements do not make him a Conservative Rabbi. Nothing he has personally done justifies making comparisons to the Conservative Movements’s founding. Rabbi Lopatin never budged in matters of Halahca without first consulting with his Rebbe - and mine - Rav Ahron Soloveichik. Rav Ahron was his Rebbe until the day he died.
Would Rav Aharon approve of what he is doing now? I doubt it. But then again I don’t really know. In the meantime Rabbi Lopatin has probably single handedly reached out and touched the Jewish souls of more non observant Jews than have all the rabbis on the Dais of the recent Agudah convention - combined. With the massive intermarriage rate reported by the Pew Research organization, is this the time to be telling an effective leader of outreach how terrible he is? Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to just be quiet?
With this in mind, let us take a look what Jonathan Rosenblum did in Israel a short time ago. From Mishpacha Magazine:
I participated in a panel on state and religion in Israel sponsored by the Israel Government Fellows Program of the Menachem Begin Center. My co-panelists turned out to be the current director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and a teacher at a Jerusalem “secular yeshivah” who is also a blogger on New Age spirituality. IRAC is the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.
Where is the condemnation here? You won’t hear any from me. Nor will you hear any from Jonathan’s Charedi base. He tries to differentiate between what he did and what Rabbi Lopatin did by saying (among other things) that he was not billed as a rabbi – which he is not. I agree that there are the differences between him and Rabbi Lopatin that he pointed out.
But he appeared on a stage with leaders of Reform to present and directly debate Orthodoxy with them. Rabbi or not, is there any doubt as to why Jonathan was invited to participate in that forum? He was the Charedi representative. His appearance there is hardly that different than that of Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Reinman who stood on the same stage with Reform Rabbi Ameil Hrisch. In fact Rabbi Hirsch and Rabbi Reinman did not even debate their religious perspectives - agreeing to disagree up front! Rabbi Reinman was criticized. Will Jonathan be criticized?
Will Chabad be criticized for inviting Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs to their Shiluchim convention? Of course not. Most of the criticism of Chabad in recent years has to do with their Messianism.
Not only did Jonathan criticize Rabbi Lopatin, he criticized the British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis for accepting an invitation to Limmud. Which is a cross denominational day of teaching where each denomination meets with visitors and teaches them about their various perspectives. Why did he criticize him? He is worried about how this looks
(This refers to Psak given by Rav Aharon Kotler and many of the Gedolim of the previous generation forbidding interaction with Conservative and Reform rabbis because it looks like we are endorsing Apikursus.)
Really? ‘How this looks’ trumps the numbers of Jews who Rabbi Mirvis might reach at Limmud while Jews are otherwise hemorrhaging out of Judaism at record numbers?!
Interestingly Jonathan included the following in his article:
But that does not mean that one can easily extrapolate from the 1956 psak to other cases.
How does Jonathan say that we cannot extrapolate from 1956 and practically in the same breath – do exactly that in the cases he talks about?! One can speculate that it would indeed be the same. But for Jonathan to be so critical when he himself has done something so similar is unfair and counterproductive to the massive problem of reaching out to those hemorrhaging Jews.
What Jonathan said about these two rabbis is high praise compared to what Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter said in his Ami editorial last week. He basically said that the ‘tepid’ rebuke by those Centrists rabbis was not enough. He believes that Rabbi Lopatin and those who share his views are no better than the Conservative movement and should be treated that way!
That’s nice. And what about all the Jews, that Rabbi Lopatin has reached… and the potential number yet to be reached? What about he 70% intermarriage rate of non Orthodox Jews? I guess his answer would be, too bad! And that as long as we ‘ the keepers of the faith’ perpetuate the Kollel system, make sure our women dress modestly, and jettison anyone who veers slightly to the left, we can ignore the rest of Klal Yisroel, sit back with a sense of triumphalism and really feel good about ourselves.