A Rabbinical Student's Blog

Monday, March 31, 2008

Clal Intrafaith Dialogue

Today, I went down to the Chelsea neighborhood for a dialogue amongst rabbinical students. This annual event of Clal's was my fourth such one, having attended each of the four years I've been at YCT.
The topic was "How and When to do What with Whom?", essentially a conversation about sexual ethics. In addition to being interested in intrafaith dialogues, which always is reinvigorating to me, I attended in order to find out about how my colleagues in the other Jewish movements make their decisions, especially along these lines, as they would be less tied to halakhah. However, one thing we did, as part of our conversations, we talked about various scenarios (some of which we had talked about in our Pastoral Counseling classes - so yay for YCT's curriculum(!)), which, on account of various suggestions, helped me in various parameters and other things which were helpful in my thinking about when I encounter various situations.
By the way, there was a good turnout from members from my school - eight students from my school of a total of 36 people there. This may partially due to one of the lines of our school's mission statement: "Affirming the shared covenantal bond between all Jews. Promoting love of all Jews (אהבת ישראל) and actively pursuing the positive and respectful interaction of all Jewish movements."
Since I'm on the topic, Rabbi Harry Maryles recently posted on our yom iyyun on prayer with a couple of other schools. I wanted to briefly set straight a few fallacies that appear in that posting:
- R' Maryles wrote "The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has recently decided not to recognize YCT ordinations." In truth, there was never any decision on the matter (as far as I know).
- R' Maryles wrote "One cannot have leaders of ‘transdenominational movements’ speaking about prayer and Jewish leadership in the context of the rabbinate, which is what YCT is all about. By default this grants them legitimacy." As a response to the legitimacy argument, I shall quote Rabbi Shmuel Goldin who wrote
We are past the point where I, as an Orthodox rabbi, should to be afraid of appearing at the Jewish Theological Seminary or appearing on a panel with heterodox rabbis simply because others will say that by doing so I am legitimizing what I should not legitimize. I don’t see it that way. We are all who we are, and we do not need, nor should we ask for, each other’s legitimization. We can agree to disagree and learn to move on. In this way we will be able to come to a point where we value each other without validating each other’s beliefs and without compromising our own. We will be able to accept each other’s boundaries without crossing our own.
- R' Maryles, furthermore wrote "The thinking is that as long as there is nothing said that contradicts Halacha, it is acceptable - even laudable - to have such gatherings in an effort to include all Jews. These movements and their members are therefore to be considered under the umbrella of Klal Yisroel. They thereby hope to influence its members by their tolerance to become more interested in Orthodoxy." Referring back to our mission statement, we are for "
positive and respectful interaction of all Jewish movements," and not necessarily just to bring them to being Orthodox, and especially not other rabbinical students, who are most likely staying within their respective denominations.

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