By Rabbi Avi Shafran
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, whose dispatches are widely reproduced both here in the United States and abroad, reported on British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis having become the first sitting British chief rabbi to address the annual Limmud conference, a gathering of multi-denominational and non-denominational Jewish leaders and laymen. By attending and being featured as a speaker, the JTA informs us, he was “defying the opposition of prominent haredi Orthodox rabbis in England.”
Fair enough. Those charedi leaders have a longstanding and principled opposition to Orthodox rabbis participating in “multi-denominational” panels, rosters and such, since doing so perforce promotes the notion that all “rabbis are rabbis,” equals in belief and scholarship, and that all self-defined “Judaisms” are part of the Judaism of our ancestors.
But the JTA report puts it thus:
“The critics had said the conference, which draws thousands of participants from all walks of Jewish life, represented a danger to British Jewry by suggesting it was acceptable for observant Jews to associate with less or non-observant Jews.”
How a Jewish news agency can think for even a moment that charedi Jews – with their innumerable and rabbinically-endorsed outreach organizations and efforts, personal friendships and study-partnerships with “less or non-observant Jews” – consider it unacceptable to associate with such Jews is beyond comprehension.
The “T” in “JTA,” here at least, would seem to stand for “tripe.”
To its credit, JTA has changed the wording of its piece and notified its clients of the correction. The paragraph quoted above now reads:
The critics had said the conference, which draws thousands of participants from all walks of Jewish life, represented a danger to British Jewry because of its inclusion of non-Orthodox religious perspectives.
It’s not a perfect correction, as that would require a more lengthy explanation of the objection to Orthodox rabbis’ participation in Limmud, along the lines of my posting above. But it is a great improvement. And has moved the “T” much closer to “truthful.”