Orthodox outreach groups join in 'positive' message

Leading Orthodox outreach groups this week pledged to work more closely in order to promote “positive authentic Judaism” across the community.

Around 150 rabbis and rebbetzins gathered in Watford on Sunday and Monday for the inaugural Aleinu conference organised jointly by Aish, the Jewish Learning Exchange and Project Seed.

Convened at short notice, the event was also attended by rabbis from the United Synagogue, Federation and other Orthodox groups such as Kesher and Tikun.

In an invitation to one rabbi, emailed little more than a week in advance, Rabbi Naftali Schiff, the executive director of Aish, wrote that Orthodoxy in the UK was “on a back foot at present”.

He also noted “a lack of joined-up thinking, achdus [unity], strategy and even knowledge of who is who, and what is going on across the gamut of kiruv [outreach]”.

Rabbi Schiff dismissed any suggestion that the event had been prompted by the debate over last month’s Limmud conference, following splits within the Orthodox rabbinate over the decision of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to attend it.

The Aleinu event was about “that which unites us, not divides us,” he stressed. “So much of how Orthodox rabbis and Orthodoxy comes across is what we’re against. Change is upon us and the challenges are great. Hence the need to meet and discuss many varied issues. It’s time we stopped being reactive and spoke up about what we are for and what we are proud of.”

Guest speaker at the conference was Rabbi Avraham Edelstein, founding director of the Ner Le’Elef leadership training institute in Jerusalem and strictly Orthodox Huffington Post blogger.

Participants backed a resolution to make the event at least annual and to present “a united, proud voice of positive authentic Judaism to the Jewish public”.

Last updated: 11:45am, January 13 2014