Volume 39 Number 38
                 Produced: Wed May 21  5:46:32 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conservative and Orthodox Shuls in 1960's
         [Barry S Bank]
Halacha and Pluralism (4)
         [Levy Lieberman, Eitan Fiorino, Stan Tenen, Avi Feldblum]
Modern Orthodoxy Definition (Chumras), Addendum
         [Allen Gerstl]
Orthodoxy and Mixed Seating


From: Barry S Bank <bsbank@...>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 07:06:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Conservative and Orthodox Shuls in 1960's

From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
>From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
>       basically an "Orthodox" service with mixed seating.  At the
>       F.J.C. it wasn't even that mixed.  The synagogue was divided by 3
>       aisles into 4

>Holliswood Jewish Center in Queens also had that in the '60's.  But at
>the same time in the mid-west USA the orthodox shuls frequently had
>mixed seating.  I remember stories of NCSY events where the dovening
>couldn't be with the congregation.  (There's at least one lurker on mj
>who can give us more info on that.)

         The phenomenon that Batya is referring to (which I was not that
aware of before moving to Chicago) is Traditional synagogues.
Apparantly Rav Regensberg from the Skokie Yeshivah allowed "American"
(ie mixed) seating as long as shuls maintained their Orthodox
affiliation and rituals (eg duchaning) to combat the rising popularity
of the Conservative movement in the 50's and 60's.  I do not think it
has been systematically studied, but my reading of the present day
situation is that, from an Orthodox perspective, this leniency was an
unqualified success.  All of the Traditional synagogues that I am
familiar with have mechitza minyanim "downstairs" mainly populated by
the children of the original members who continue to daven "upstairs",
and everyone seems to get along.  Some shuls even have different
upstairs and downstairs rabbis who give each other the appropriate

The "Traditional" shuls of Chicago are one thing but I am personally
familiar with at least 2 Orthodox shuls which, at least until the 70's,
had mixed seating (Kansas City and Denver) and were members in good
standing of the OU.  When I inquired as to how that was possible, one of
the rabbis half-jokingly responded that the halachah west of the
Mississippi River is different!; the other explained more seriously
that, for the sake of membership, the OU was prepared to allow mixed
seating so long as the rabbi who occupied the shul's pulpit undertook to
work toward the installation of a mechitzah.  I understand that the OU
has now put an end to that "kula" because few if any of the shuls in
that category ever did install a mechitzah.


From: Levy Lieberman <kushint@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 14:03:59 -0400
Subject: Re: Halacha and Pluralism

Beyond the various "labels" that we often tend to ascribe to various
groups and denominations of Jews (i.e. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox,
Modern-Orthodox, Haredi, etc.) there is simply "a Jew", and as such it
is our duty to respect HIM to the fullest measure. It has been the goal
of this thread to work out a way in which to accomplish just this,
without, in anyway, compromising (or even giving the impression of
compromising) the strict Halachic standards to which we adhere.

I believe the key to this is in the following rule: Bring him closer to
the Torah; do not bring the Torah closer to him.

We do not need to look very far to find examples for this: Both Aish
Hatorah and Chabad have successfully built community centers and
Synagogues that keep to Halacha in the most stringent manner, and yet
manage to attract Jews who consider themselves reform, non-practicing,
etc. I do not think that these organizations (who might even have board
members or directors that are big players in their Reform Communities as
well) come across as compromising on Halacha, or legitimizes any
non-halachic approach to Judaism.

This is somewhat of an ironic phenomenon, but when studied it can be
easily understood:

With the axiomatic differences that lie between the various movements,
it is almost impossible for either side to come to an "agreement". Now,
considering that most of today's reform, or conservative Jews are people
who were *educated* by their respective "factions", to approach the
issue from a philosophical perspective will almost always bear no fruit.

Successful "pluralism" can only be achieved by *disregarding* labels,
and by focusing on our common denominators -- our Jewishness. Period. So
long as we are not breaking the Halacha in any way. When the Lubavitcher
Rebbe Zt"l started his various "Mitzvah campaigns" there were many who
claimed that this is the wrong approach, that we must first convince
them of "our" approach, and only then can we allow them to put on
Teffilin. The success of Chabad, Aish, and the other Kiruv movements
lies in the fact that while insisting on only the strictest Halachic
standards, they look beyond the label and embrace the Jew and his

From: Eitan Fiorino <tony.fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 18:57:21 -0400
Subject: Halacha and Pluralism

> From: Cohen, David A <davidaco@...>
>The 90% of Jews that left Orthodox Judaism in the 19th century because
>of the introduction of reform Judaism, and the secular/non-orthodox
>population that has emerged from that separation had very little to do
>with Judasim's failures. Judasim lost a following because it was hard
>to reconcile Judaism with the philosophy of the times - rationalism.

I think this is backwards.  Jews did not leave behind what I'll refer to
as traditional rabbinic Judaism because Reform was sitting there as an
alternative, and it was the switch to Refrom that drove the emergance of
a secular Jewish majority.  Rather, Reform Judaism emerged from the loss
of traditional religious sensibility that was driven by the
enlightenement and from the emancipation of Jews from the ghettos.
Reform Judaism, Zionism and to a certain extent socialism were created
by Jews seeking to relate to a world that been turned upside-down in a
very short time span.  I'm sure that the loss of the social pressure
exerted within the walls of the ghetto and the loss of Jewish legal
autonomy also contributed substantially to the decline in shemirat
halachah seen during those times.


Tony Fiorino, M.D., Ph.D.
Equity Research Analyst - Biotechnology; Citigroup Asset Management
100 First Stamford Place; Stamford, CT 06902
Phone: (203) 961-6238; Fax: (203) 602-6045

From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 10:06:12 -0400
Subject: Re: Halacha and Pluralism

David A. Cohen's critique of my posting is far too long for me to
respond to, except to say that he seems to have misunderstood everything
I've written, and left out most of the important things that I had to

As part of this discussion, I sent out what I thought was a chadash (and 
also submitted it to mail-jewish).  I propose that there was a relationship 
-- a measure -- between the fact that 90% of Am Israel has walked away (and 
contrary to David's posting, stayed away) and the fact that today, our 
sages command only about 10% of Torah.

Some of my friends were outraged.  So I "consulted my LOR" (and a number
of other persons, far better trained than I am).  The response I got was
that there was apparently discussion of this sort of thing in the
literature.  So, it wasn't a chadash after all.

And again, here's my point.  _WHATEVER_ the cause, the fact is that we
don't know how to attract back the 90% who have left, and that blaming
Conservative, Reform, the Haskalah, gentiles, or scholars, may make us
feel good, but it still doesn't solve the problem.

The fact is that a goodly proportion of those who are currently lost to
Torah would be attracted to Torah if more of Torah were visible.  There
is a correlation between the fact that only about 10% of our Torah is
known to us today, and the fact that only about 10% of Am Israel knows
Torah.  (It's the golden rule, for heavens' sake. <smile>)

The parts of Torah that are missing from our current command are the
very parts that Jews go outside of Torah in search of.  Those inclined
to meditation look to the Hindus or the Buddhists, for example.  Those
inclined to reason, look to the sciences.  (Which become very
idolatrously "god-like" to people who "have faith in science".)  Yet,
Torah includes the deepest possible meditations -- including the
ego-death and rebirth meditation, the "Pardes" meditation of Rabbi
Akiba, and Torah includes a "science of consciousness" that unifies mind
and world, consciousness and physics, in a way that is at the very
cutting edge of inquiry today.

It's up to us to make use of our halacha to learn more Torah, so more of
Torah can be seen, so more of us can be attracted to it.  The Light in
Torah is more attractive to our minds than the physical sun is to the
plants.  Once a plant sees the sun, it is never fooled by a neon light
again.  This is how Am Israel comes home to Torah.

Let's use halacha to turn on the lights.


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 05:54:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Halacha and Pluralism

On Thu, 15 May 2003, Stan Tenen wrote:

> From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
> As part of this discussion, I sent out what I thought was a chadash (and
> also submitted it to mail-jewish).  I propose that there was a relationship
> -- a measure -- between the fact that 90% of Am Israel has walked away (and
> contrary to David's posting, stayed away) and the fact that today, our
> sages command only about 10% of Torah.

As I read Stan's original post, his statement was much stronger than the
above statement, which for me was a non-starter in effective discussion
(although the limits on my time are probably more so). He stated several
times that the fact that 90% of Am Yisrael are not following what we hold
to be the correct path is PROOF that there is something fundamentally
wrong with our current path, and that the primary indication of whether we
are moving in the correct direction in our path is whether the 90% number
goes up or down. To me it was this clear message of the primacy of this
fact in how Stan indicated we should view the entirety of the current
Orthodox movement, that David responded to. While I think this is one
issue that needs to be understood, and my approach there would be much
along David's response, see also the writings of R. Saks of England, I see
much more critical issues that I would focus on first (and I owe a
response to Binyamin on some of these issues).

Avi Feldblum


From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 20:14:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodoxy Definition (Chumras), Addendum

Just a brief addendum to my last posting.

Binyomin Segal argued against my position that a type of chumra based
upon pietistic extra-halachic considerations and characterised by the
phrase "u-baal nefesh yachmir" (and someone who cares particularly for
his soul will be stringent) was a hallmark of modern chareidi
orthodoxy. He thus argued that such types of chumras are also found
within general halachic practice. My position was that the "siyag
ve-geder" type of chumra was normative within general halachic practice
and that the other type of chumra was a hallmark of chareidi practice.

I should add that I agree that there are indeed some "baal nefesh
yachmir" types of practices that are found in normative halachic
practice. My point however is that it is only in chareidi practice that
such is a norm for general halachic observance as opposed to a practice
applicable to only a few halachot.




From: Gottesman <gottesman@...>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 00:22:33 -0400
Subject: Orthodoxy and Mixed Seating

"I do hereby reiterate the statement I have made on numerous occasions, both
in writing and orally that a synagogue with a mixed seating arrangement
forfeits its sanctity and it Halachic status as a mikdash me'at, and is
unfit for prayer and avodah she-belev. With full cognizance of the
implications of such a halachic decision, I would still advise every
orthodox jew to forego tefillah betzibur even on Rosh Hashanah and Yom
Kippur, rather than enter a synagogue with mixed pews, notwithstanding the
fact that the officiating rabbi happens to be a graduate of a great and
venerable yeshiva."

I am sure the list will recognize these famous words of the Rav
zt'l. They are quoted in "The Sanctity of the Synagogue" (the book about
the mechitza case in the Jewish Congregation of Mount Clemens in 1955)
from a message that the Rav sent to an RCA convention.

The book also reproduces a telegram from the Rav sent to the Council of
Orthodox Rabbis of Detroit regarding the Mount Clemens synagogue. The
text of the telegram is similar to the above quote. "I have stated my
opinion on many occasions that synagogues with mixed pews forfeit
sanctity and is unfit for prayer. I would advise the (sic) orthodox jews
to forego tiflah (sic) bitzibur rather than attend services in a house
of worship that has been desecrated."

The question which I pose to the list is whether or not, the Rav's
choice of words 'Orthodox Jew' was meant to limit the scope of his
psak. Or, would/did the Rav would so instruct even a non observant jew
to also not attend services in a shul with mixed seating. I would be
most interested in hearing if someone has an informed opinion on the

I contrast this with the quote from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein in Tradition Vol
20 No 1.

"Nor do I share the glee some feel over the prospective demise of the
competition. Surely, we have many sharp differences with the
Conservative and Reform movements, and these should not be sloughed over
or blurred.  However, we also share many values with them - and this,
too, should not be obscured. Their disappearance might strengthen us in
some respects but would unquestionably weaken us in others. And of
course, if we transcend our own interests and think of the people served
by these movements - many of them, both presently and potentially, well
beyond our ken - how would they or klal Yisrael as a whole, be affected
by such a change. Can anyone responsibly state that it is better for a
marginal Jew in Dallas or Dubuque to lose his religious identity
altogether rather than drive to his temple?"


End of Volume 39 Issue 38