Monday, November 19, 2007

Increasing Unity

Steve Savitsky has a fascinating interview, on OU Radio, with R. Berel Wein and R. Avi Shafran titled "Dividing Unity" (link). The interview revolves around articles by the interviewees in the Summer 2007 issue of Jewish Action. R. Wein wrote an article titled "Weeping and Wishing" (link) in which he bemoans the divisiveness in the Orthodox community. R. Shafran had a contrary article titled "La Différence, La Similarité" (link) in which he argues that there is actually growing consensus in the Orthodox community. These two views are repeated in the interviews.

In general, R. Shafran comes across as a really nice guy who just seems so optimistic that even though you can't agree with him you just wish you could. R. Wein is more of the realist, although in doing so he commits what I consider to be a false argument for the sake of even-handedness. He emphasizes in his article and interview that the guilt lies on both sides of the growing split. For example:

Agudath Israel is currently not allowed to deal with the writings of Rabbis Kook or Amiel, nor is the Religious Zionist camp likely to publish the thoughts of Rabbis Elchanan Wasserman or Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. The lines of division in the ranks of Orthodoxy have hardened over the last half-century. We are all the poorer for that, and this is a cause of tears for me.
I don't think this is correct. Religious Zionists and Modern Orthodox quote from across the spectrum (see this post) and, in general, show immense respect for scholars and institutions on the right. I find R. Wein's "moral equivalence" hard to swallow and unnecessary.

The most important part of the interview begins at the end of minute 8 when R. Wein discusses how to increase unity. He calls for teachers and rabbis to be trained to be careful not to delegitimize other groups of Jews. I was thinking of how to realistically implement a solution of this nature and it seems to me that the only organization with both the mandate and the ability to do anything of like this is the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. Similar to their B'Drachov program, they can create a curriculum and a campaign that discourages speaking badly of and delegitimizing other groups of Jews. This can, I think, be realistically accomplished and implemented. In addition to impacting on children, it will also affect the teachers and parents who have to teach and reinforce the curriculum.

If any readers of this blog have connections at that organization, please strongly recommend a campaign of this nature. It can only increase peace.

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