September 23, 2019

Letters Clarifying Remarks

I am very grateful for Ari Noonan’s coverage of the inter-denominational town meeting that took place at UCLA Hillel last month (“Setting a Conciliatory Tone,” June 20). I feel a need, however, to fill out Mr. Noonan’s description of my remarks that evening.

As the article makes clear, I am an unapologetic proponent of inter-denominational respect and cooperation, and I stressed that theme at the Hillel forum. I also emphasized though, that it is my own belief that Orthodoxy in fact represents the most accurate expression of Judaism, and that I would never advise my congregants that non-Orthodox expressions are equally acceptable personal options. I asserted further, that both of my colleagues on the panel would feel the same way about their own movements. All three of us had chosen our respective movements because we believed that they were more valid than the others are. I then suggested that this reality is the framework for our pursuit of finding our common ground and working together on common problems — a process that will benefit all of klal yisrael.

I admire my friend Ari Noonan’s enthusiasm for the “good news” on inter-denominational relations. And I’m proud to be a part of that good news. The realities within which we must operate must also be clear if our endeavor will in fact bring success and blessing.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

B’nai David-Judea Congregation

Los Angeles

Amplifying Comments

Not at all surprising, because he is a most articulate professional journalist, who objectively does his research and then writes very accurate pieces, Ari Noonan provides all of his readers some thought-provoking comments regarding diversity and pluralism in the Jewish community, and the difficulty some ultra-traditionalists have in coping with this reality (“Trying to Get Along,” May 30). Thus, in the midst of their discomfort, they have chosen to lash out with anger and rage, attacking those of us with whom they disagree rather than entering into a dialogue which might lead to a calming of some very emotionally stormy seas.

Since I am the unidentified Reform rabbi, whose recent experience is the subject of Ari’s initial report, there are three things that need to be amplified:

1. The Orthodox rabbi with whom I shared a public platform began his tirade against progressive Judaism by telling the audience that his only worship time in a liberal congregation was when he attended a Sunday morning service at Cleveland’s Temple when Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver officiated — that had to be at least 40 years ago! My colleague was unwilling to acknowledge the extent to which Reform Judaism has embraced ritual and ceremony since then.

2. Not only did he denounce me but he declared that “all non-Orthodox Jews are deviants and heathens.” That remark leaves little room for discussion and little chance for us to gain harmony and peace.

3. A woman spoke to him, indicating that she had been raised in a small Illinois Reform congregation, that she had moved here, that she and her husband and their children belong to a Reform synagogue in Los Angeles, that they observe the laws of kashrut, they observe Shabbat and all holidays and festivals, regularly study Tanach and perform mitzvot. She asked: “Rabbi, do you respect me?” He replied: “Because of everything that you’ve just said, there is so much pain in my heart concerning your situation that there is no room in my heart for either respect or love for you.”

I just wonder how this particular rabbi and those who agree with him define the term “klal yisrael.

Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, Ph.D. D.D.

University Synagogue

Los Angeles

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