Avi Shafran Likes the New Reform Prayerbook — Sort of

Rabbi Avi Shafran — spokesman for the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel of America — seems genuinely excited about the Reform movement’s new prayerbook.

To be sure, the Reform Siddur “Mishkan T’filah” is pretty far from what Shafran would consider an ideal prayerbook, but he’s pretty pleased by its steps toward tradition — particularly its inclusion of a prayer for the resurrection of the dead.

On the always-interesting Orthodox blog Cross-Currents, Shafran writes:

Granted, most Reform Jews probably won’t take Shafran’s comparison of their movement to the moldering dead as a compliment. Nor are they likely to be thrilled by the basis for his enthusiasm about their new prayerbook — namely his desire that it will help some find their way to Orthodoxy. Still, it’s a positive development when a leading ultra-Orthodox figure engages with developments in Reform Juaism.

All too often, the ultra-Orthodox world is afraid to engage with their more liberal kin (so supremely secure in their beliefs that they dare not expose themselves to alternative views). Writing admiringly about Shafran’s post, Orthodox blogger Harry Maryles brings up an old controversy over “One People, Two Worlds,” a book of exchanges between a Reform rabbi and a haredi scholar that was ultimately banned by the ultra-Orthodox Council of Sages. Maryles sees in that incident a lost opportunity to reach out.

More broadly, the ultra-Orthodox may be eager to reach out to non-Orthodox Jews to expose them to haredi beliefs, but they should keep in mind that a conversation involves listening as well as talking.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Avi Shafran Likes the New Reform Prayerbook — Sort of

Thank you!

This article has been sent!