American Orthodox Leaders Try To Stay Above Fray

By Steven I. Weiss

Published July 02, 2004, issue of July 02, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

American Orthodox leaders say they are struggling to stay out of the debates tearing at Israel’s religious community over Prime Minister Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan.

Modern Orthodox groups in America traditionally look to Israel’s so-called national religious camp, embodied in the National Religious Party and the chief rabbinate, as primary counterparts in Israel. Like Israeli religious Zionists, most view the state of Israel and its institutions as embodying sacred Jewish values. With the state proposing to divide the sacred land of Israel, and the religious party and the rabbinate divided over how to respond, American Orthodox leaders say they are torn.

None of the major groups has taken sides, yet some hint at likely leanings as the crisis mounts.

Spokesmen for the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America said they would not comment on principle. “Jews who want to take sides in Israeli politics should make aliya,” or settle in Israel, said David Luchins, an O.U. vice president.

The Religious Zionists of America probably will await the outcome of the debate within the National Religious Party, said executive vice president emeritus Israel Friedman. “Some of our people believe in the rabbinate ruling,” Friedman said, referring to Israeli rabbis who have banned cooperation with the disengagement. However, he warned that bolting Sharon’s coalition would leave decision-making in the hands of liberals. “If we quit the government,” he said, “we live in a period of mamzerim like Lapid and others.”

“Partial withdrawal, there is no other solution,” Friedman said.

The National Council of Young Israel similarly has not taken a position. However, its executive vice president, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, hinted that he and his group lean toward the hard-liners. He cited his organizational and personal relationships with the religious mentors of the settler movement, former chief rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu, both of whom have spoken strongly against Sharon’s plan. “I assume… if we had to sit down and make some decisions, Rabbi Shapira’s and Rabbi Eliyahu’s input would have significant weight,” he said, adding that the council “probably would fall more on the side that’s listening to the rabbis than the one that is not.”

Lerner emphasized that his group has “member synagogues in Gaza that are being directly affected” by the withdrawal and that “the Young Israel movement has always been a believer in greater Israel.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.