Orthodoxy’s Role

I was disappointed but not surprised with Rabbi Tzvi Hersch Weinreb’s and the Orthodox Union’s flat rejection of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky’s suggestion that the Orthodox community move beyond “traditional parameters” in its discourse with other denominations (Letters, Dec. 23). As an Orthodox participant in Rabbi Kanefsky’s interdenominational study groups, I have yet to find that these interactions blur denominational boundaries or threaten belief in Torah Min HaShamayim. In addition to creating a positive forum for the mutual desire to promote communal Jewish unity, they foster mutual understanding as well as respectful disagreement on fundamental matters of faith.

Rabbi Weinreb refers to Havdalah, where we delineate the distinction between Israel and the nations of the world. I doubt that being Mavdil between Jewish denominations is the intent of the prayer, unless one considers non-Orthodox denominations theologically equivalent to non-Jewish religions. Who can claim the moral authority to distinguish holiness among Jews? Historically our enemies have not been so discerning.

Gil Melmed
Los Angeles

The letter from the Orthodox Union (OU) spurning Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky’s well-reasoned argument in favor of increasing dialogue with the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism (“Orthodoxy Has Chance to Reshape Role,” Dec. 9) is worse than small-minded. It slanders and betrays some of the greatest leaders of both Orthodox and North American Jewry — who, fortunately, had both the good sense and remarkable ability to step forward for the benefit of Klal Yisrael.

One does not have to think back too far to recall Rabbi Israel Miller, who was active until the day of his death in 2002, as chairman of the Material Claims Conference, after holding the highest Jewish offices, including chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and an officer of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the World Zionist Organization and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In all these roles, Miller, a senior vice president of Yeshiva University, worked closely and with mutual respect with Conservative and Reform rabbinic counterparts, who consistently responded to his wisdom, guidance and dedication by repeatedly electing him to represent them all.

In Canada, a similar role was played by Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, a past president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, who founded the Toronto Rabbinical Fellowship together with Rabbis Gunther Plaut and Stuart Rosenberg, representing the Reform and Conservative streams respectively. Sadly, today, the Toronto Board of Rabbis is bereft of Orthodox members.

Ironically, one of the most popular and dynamic leaders of Orthodox Jewry at this moment, Richard Joel, was appointed president of Yeshiva University precisely because of the reputation he gained as the director of a revitalized Hillel Foundation — and as a direct result of his working primarily with Conservative and Reform rabbis, men and women, who served as directors of campus Hillels across the country.

Tragically, the attitude of today’s OU leadership will ensure that Modern Orthodoxy will be marginalized, to the detriment of its own movement and future generations of American Jewry.

Buzzy Gordon
Los Angeles

Slop Sink

I am responding to Rob Eshman’s editorial “The Slop Sink” (Dec. 31) as one who has been married for 40 wonderful years to an immigrant from Russia and has devoted an entire career to working at an institution that is staffed by beautiful souls from every corner of the globe. It is true that some of our society’s most vital institutions would not last even one day without foreign-born labor. We owe these people extreme gratitude and reverence.

However, we are sobered by two realities: 1) There is a difference between immigration and human trafficking. We have crossed that line. 2) Our society simply cannot absorb everyone who wants to be here. Greedy capitalists who thirst for cheap labor and twisted leftists who think that Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming are “occupied territory” have come together to become very strange bedfellows.

Unenforced immigration law threatens to become the most defining issue of the coming years unless common sense prevails.

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Van Nuys

‘Munich’ Message

The recent venom against Steven Spielberg surrounding “Munich” frightens me (“‘Munich’: The Missing Conversation,” Dec. 23). Artists like Spielberg profoundly influence culture without bullets and bombs. Surely he is not anti-Israel. He is pro-peace and has a deep passion, I’m sure, for his Jewish heritage and surely for human suffering.

Rick Lippin
Southampton, Pa