Our Naqba?

While Jeff debated with Rav Reinman the virtues of forced population transfers in Israel, I was at least equally troubled — at least initially — by the use of the Palestinian “Naqba” (disaster, referring to the founding of the State of Israel) as a metaphor for the reaction of Torah-observant Jewry to the Reform and Conservative movements.

Certainly, any such metaphor is prone to be misunderstood. As Rabbi Reinman so eloquently demonstrated throughout his correspondence with Ammiel Hirsch in One People, Two Worlds, his attitude towards Reform Jews, and even the leading Rabbis of that movement, is one of love, patience, and understanding. If, indeed, there is a desire towards divergent creeds to “throw them into the sea,” this is accompanied by no desire to injure or weaken the practitioners of those creeds. On the contrary, the desire is to build them up, to open up worlds of Jewish learning, meaning and spirituality as found in the Torah.

This being the case, I do not understand the use of language of warfare to discuss Torah outreach and education. Who is the “ideological foe,” if not the same Ammiel Hirsch with whom Rabbi Reinman engaged in such civil discourse, and his colleagues? Are there, today, “forces of heresy,” or merely people — both the laity and the Rabbis of liberal movements — raised to believe in systems foreign to the traditions of Torah (or, at least, an insufficient grounding in Torah)?

Outreach workers are no more focused upon Reform or Conservative Jews than they are upon the unaffiliated, whom today number over 50% of the total Jewish population of the United States. A Conservative-affiliated Jew is far less likely to intermarry than an unaffiliated Jew, and I am not aware of any outreach program that specifically reaches into the Reform or Conservative communities — as compared to the unaffiliated — in order to kindle interest in Torah.

And, at the same time, I think the Rabbi presents an extraordinarily rosy picture of what Reform and Conservative leaders want. “The liberal streams seek pluralism. They want peaceful coexistence with the Orthodox.” Essays could be written on the definitions of “pluralism,” and the historical development of the desire for “peaceful coexistence.” Topics for future entries, perhaps!

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