At a time when most Jewish leaders are eagerly embracing anyone who claims a shred of Jewish identity or heritage, some Orthodox leaders are doing just the opposite: dramatically restricting the acceptable behaviors and belief systems of even their own.
So we have the embarrassing spectacle of Rabbi Asher Lopatin, the new president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, who espouses a form of “open Orthodoxy” and finds that his former colleagues won’t even return his phone calls. And Ephraim Mirvis, the newly installed chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, who announces he will attend Limmud — perhaps the most successful expression of pluralistic, exuberant Jewish learning in the world — only to be denounced by some of the very Haredi leaders he was chosen to represent.
“The endless focus on who is in and who is out,” Lopatin wrote recently in Haaretz, “only serves to sow discord and a notion that there is indeed an objective judging authority who can open windows in men’s souls.” Women’s souls, too.
Despite its growing numbers, Orthodoxy in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere is facing serious challenges, especially with increasing poverty tied to high unemployment and high rates of secular illiteracy. The Pew Research Center study found that massive Orthodox outreach efforts have brought in only tiny numbers of Jews to the movement. Perhaps the tiresome dictates of “who’s in, who’s out” are why.