Orthodox Jewry- A Misguided Position About Other Denominations

On another blog I stumbled across this comment:

The Jewish Theological Seminary is a center of Conservative Judaism. Conservative Judaism, like Reform Judaism, is not considered a valid form of Judaism by Orthodox Jews,

When I was younger I found such comments to be offensive. It was disturbing to think that Jews could say this about other Jews. I was very surprised by it. Gradually comments like this stopped bothering me. I don’t have to cater to other peoples narishkeit. People can say whatever they want but it doesn’t mean that it is true.

It has helped that over time I have been involved in so many different Jewish organizations that were tied into various denominations. Add in Orthodox relatives and many friends that are BT and you have a recipe for a certain amount of insight.

In particular it was obvious that Orthodox Judaism is not monolithic in its approach. Sure, there are certain things that everyone agrees about, but the reality is that there is a huge subset. In truth there always has been. How many times have we heard about the fights between the mitnagdim and the Chassidim.

Are you part of Beit Hillel or Beit Shammai. Are you a Breslover or a Lubavitcher. Ashkenazic and Sefardi Minhagim sometimes conflict. The jackasses in the NK consider themselves to be the true defenders of the faith but most of my Orthodox friends and family look with scorn upon them.

What comes to mind is a comment from Bayonim. It is an older blog that hasn’t been updated in some time.

Oddly, as the night progressed, though, I found myself thinking not of tweenagers, but of single Jewish woman, woman in their thirties, woman who are stilled called “girls” by clueless matrons, woman who haven’t yet found their man, or their place yet on the wide, wide, spectrum that is the Orthodox Jewish community. At some point we all choose our own spot on that spectrum, and implicitly we announce that all the other spots – the Hasidic spot, the modern spot, or whatever – we announce that those other spots aren’t for us, or for our children.

I was married before I thought about these things. I didn’t understand the deep deivisions in Orthodoxy, and it never occured to me that I might one day live, and also thrive, in a neighborhood so alien to my upbringing. Now, at thirty-two, my bed is made so to speak. I have the house, I have the kids, I have the community, and for better or for worse, I have my spot on the spectrum.

Just one more blogger who makes the point that there is no one way. I don’t care which denomination you look at, we all have evolutions of thought and policy. Sure some of the core elements stay the same, but change does come.

To be clear, this is not being written as some sort of academic essay. You aren’t going to find me citing this Gemara and that. I won’t speak about what the Rambam had to say or Rashi’s position on xyz. It is not necessary.

The people that hate Jews don’t distinguish between those of us walking around with peyot and those who do not. They don’t care whether you are shomer negiah or shomer shabbos . A Torah true Jew is the same as the guy that fell off the derech. In their eyes one Yid is the same as another.

The real point of this post is that we can try and find a way to minimize the acrimony and get along better. More achdut and less divisiveness.

I have always enjoyed this story about The Besht.

It is told of the Besht that one Yom Kippur a poor Jewish boy, an illiterate shepherd, entered the synagogue where he was praying. The boy was deeply moved by the service, but frustrated that he could not read the prayers. He started to whistle, the one thing he knew he could do beautifully; he wanted to offer his whistling as a gift to God. The congregation was horrified at the desecration of their service. Some people yelled at the boy, and others wanted to throw him out. The Ba’al Shem Tov immediately stopped them. “Until now,” he said, “I could feel our prayers being blocked as they tried to reach the heavenly court. This young shepherd’s whistling was so pure, however, that it broke through the blockage and brought all of our prayers straight up to God.”

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  1. Amishav May 3, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Hey- this is interesting considering what I’ve been dealing with lately in trying to work out where my girlfriend and I stand right now. I’m staunchly conservadox, and she’s pretty darn secular, but we’re working on resolving those issues because we like each other so much. You’re right though, the nazi’s didn’t care about fine sectarian lines between chassidic and litvish, so what the heck? We just gotta stop the infighting. There’s room for everyone and every one of us has a place except for NK.

  2. The Babka Nosher May 3, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Great post, Jack

  3. Stephen May 3, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    I’m not Jewish, but I can relate. We all feel a need to define ourselves; and we define ourselves over against other people. (“I’m not x, I’m y.”)

    The things that unite us are always weightier than the things that divide us, but we blow up the differences out of all proportion.

  4. orieyenta May 3, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    The real point of this post is that we can try and find a way to minimize the acrimony and get along better.


    Great post Jack. The “labeling” within all of Judaism (not just the Orthodoxy) seems too similar to the “labeling” that leads to prejudices and sterotypes in the secular world. What ever happened to V’ahavta L’reyacha Kamocha? (ואהבת לרעך כמוך)

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