The Relationship of Orthodox Jews with Believing Jews of Other Religious Ideologies and Non-Believing Jews

Grappling with the religious divide


Edited Adam Mintz, Ktav $30

As suggested by its rather unwieldy title, this volume tackles some of the thornier aspects of inter-denominational interaction from modern Orthodox perspectives. It is a sequence of papers, originally presented at one of Yeshiva University's Orthodox Forums by a distinguished group of educators, professors and yeshivah heads.

While some essays deal with circumstances unique to the United States, many of them have parallels in British Jewry. There is an excellent historical study of the changes in inter-denominational relationships in America, studies of the challenges of Orthodox professionals working in non-Orthodox educational and communal settings and a comparison of the religious-secular divides in Israel and America.

The book contains some memorable sections about the changing American attitudes towards the personal and communal pain caused by intermarriage and the often unacknowledged reliance of the non-Orthodox communities on their Orthodox counterparts for direction in creating communal vibrancy. It also includes an important non-Orthodox contribution by Ahuva Halberstam, the high-school head of the "pluralistic, progressive" Heschel School in Manhattan. Her piece, as well as Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein's balanced approach to pan-denominational educational enterprises, while not quite addressing British scenarios, gave me food for thought.

The final section covers topics such as civil marriage in Israel and relations between religious and non-religious IDF troops. In a thoughtful postscript, Rabbi Lichtenstein notes that when a religious and secular soldier "have sat in a tank jointly, their common safety and respective futures often inextricably intertwined, there is a commonality that may just not exist in the diaspora".

Harvey Belovski is rabbi of Golders Green United Synagogue

    Last updated: 10:41am, March 10 2011