April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

How to Love (Conservative, Reform, Hasidic, Reconstructionist, etc.) Jews

I grew up in a nominally Orthodox family in a city near Boston. But had things gone as they were going, I would have undoubtedly gone into adolescence as a non-committed Jew.

It was the year of my bar mitzvah. My father’s parents, who had retired and moved to Eretz Yisroel several years before, decided to come back to spend close to a year near their children and grandchildren. Though I couldn’t communicate with them (they only spoke Yiddish and my parents successfully kept that as a private language for hiding things from the children), they seemed like an impressive religious couple. That, together with the fact that a close friend decided to transfer from a local public school to Maimonides, convinced me to join him. After winning the battle with my parents because, I suspect, of my grandparent’s support and possible promise to help with tuition, I enrolled in Maimonides at age 13. I went into grade 9, got support in Hebrew, was excused from Latin and French, and was welcomed into a wonderful class. Following high school, I went to YU and on to the rest of my life as a rabbi and later as a psychologist.

At YU, I became a bit of a haredi for a while, but later settled into right of center Modern Orthodoxy, a position I have continued, though with some discomfort. The discomfort relates primarily to the somewhat negative attitudes that many Orthodox people have toward anyone who acts, believes, or simply expresses ideas that are against those of the group. While we live in a time that people are becoming a bit more accepting of those that are somewhat different from them, in general, we nevertheless follow the “party” line with regard to anyone who is off-track. If we are Orthodox, we look down upon anyone who is Reform, or sometimes too open (e.g., Chovevei), and certainly against those who are intermarried, and probably haredi or Hasidic. If we are very haredi, the censure is generally even stronger, with opposition becoming demeaning, and in some groups, even violent!

What happened to Ahavat Yisroel? Is Yisroel only those who wear the same bekeshe, hat, or yarmulke? I understand that accepting almost any position involves disagreement with those who accept a different view. But can’t we disagree somewhat gently, and act respectfully with those that we differ with?

My high school, Maimonides, was in Roxbury (and later moved to Brookline shortly after I finished high school). Roxbury (or more correctly, Dorchester) was, at the time, the home of the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Horowitz. z’tl. The rebbe was born and raised in Boston. But while at the time he didn’t have a single adherent who was a chosid, and few who were Shomer Shabbos, he nevertheless was a rebbe in the fullest sense of the term. He led fabrengen, often for students who were not at all religious. I often participated when he baked matzoh in his homemade basement oven to the cries of “l’shem mitzvah matzohs.” He was always available to anyone who called.

I remember the time, more than 50 years ago, that he contacted Senator Ted Kennedy to arrange transport for a critically injured 9-year-old from the bush areas of Maine to Boston for emergency care on Kennedy’s private small plane. (See the wonderful Artscroll book, And the Angels Laughed, or Feldheim’s The Bostoner by Hanoch Teller, for a better appreciation of The Bostoner Rebbe.)

The rebbe sponsored a dinner in Boston on behalf of the Lakewood Yeshiva attended by the Rav, Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, Rabbi Sheneur Kotler, and many others. And he was on the presidium of Agudath Yisroel and a member of Moetses Gedolei HaTorah. He was a true rebbe, who loved every Jew of every stripe. We would be very hard pressed to find someone today of his caliber.

In 1965, when my wife and I were to be married, there was no question that the Mesader Keddushin would be the Bostoner. Nina’s parents, at the time, were members of the Jericho Jewish Center in Jericho, Long Island (Conservative), and wanted their Rabbi, Rabbi Stanley Steinhart, to co-officiate. The rebbe, of course, agreed and the two rabbis, together with Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, who was head of NCSY at the time, joined in co-officiating at our wedding. Could anyone imagine that happening today?! What happened? Can someone today call a Reform Rabbi “Rabbi….” and not be soundly criticized?

I will remain somewhat right-wing Orthodox, but how I wish that others, especially Orthodox Jews, would be, as they should be, gentle and respectful of others—even those that are VERY different.

Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to [email protected] . Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist in private practice for 35 years as well as a rabbi of Congregation Ahavat Yisroel. If you would like to submit a question, or contact him for an appointment, he can be reached at [email protected] or by calling him at 201-983-1532.

By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick

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