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A response to Orthodox trend toward hegemony and social action

Reader comment on item: The Orthodox Future of Judaism

Submitted by Rabbi Edgar Weinsberg (United States), Jan 25, 2005 at 22:18

Dear Daniel,

Speaking as a Conservative rabbi, I was astonished by your claim that the Orthodox are likely to deepen their involvement in world affairs or relate to Jewish causes beyond their own. So far the group that has done this the most effectively is the Religioius Action Center of the Reform Movement, based in Washington.

Our Conservative Movement, through the Rabbinical Assembly, is trying to raise social consciousness for causes other than those of our movement, but for decades the Reform have led the way.

Certainly one leading Orthodox rabbi's speech to rally ritually observant Jews (haredim) to commit to Jewish social action, and even broader concerns, is unlikely to spear-head the Orthodox world at-large to do so in any substantive way.

All our Movements are suffering from indifference on the part of the rank and file much of our religious leadership. The work of the many, as usual, is being done by the few.

It also seems to me that the rising proportion of Orthodox affiliation, relative to others who identify with organized Jewish life, does not necessarily indicate that the Orthodox will eventually outnumber more liberal Jews as in days of yesteryear. I do not believe that endorsing a narrower, strict legal character of Judaism, will foster growing loyalty to our Jewish heritage among most Jews.

In short, I do not foresee that Orthodoxy will prevail over more liberal forms of Judaism. That is because "amkha" (Jewish laity) in all camps has not been responsive to the cues of their religious leaders.

"Shamor vi'zachor" - observing and upholding Jewish tradition is not as pervasive among our lay people as many of us rabbis would like. Perhaps we rabbis are to be blamed, along with broader demographic trends that increasingly make for widespread indifference and the outright rejection of Jewish tenets.

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