Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Jerks!

The Rabbinical Council of America - the main Rabbinic body of "Modern Orthodoxy" - sure knows how to through cold water on feelings of tolerance , unity and understanding.

According to an official press release from the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee, describing the National Prayer Service held yesterday, with and for President Obama (emphasis mine:)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, as part of an Inauguration for all Americans, the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee announced the spiritual leaders from the diverse array of our nation’s religious traditions who will participate in the National Prayer Service on Wednesday, January 21st. The National Prayer Service, a tradition dating back to the Inauguration of George Washington, will be held at the National Cathedral at the conclusion of the inaugural activities. The service will include scripture readings, prayers, hymns and blessings delivered by faith leaders from across the United States.

“President-elect Obama’s faith is a central part of his life and he will begin the first full day of his Administration with a service of interfaith prayer and reflection,“ said Presidential Inaugural Committee Communications Director Josh Earnest. “The National Prayer Service, which will embody the themes of tolerance, unity and understanding, is a worship service for all Americans. “

The National Prayer Service will include a traditional prayer for civil leaders, a prayer for the nation, a selection by the Washington, D.C.-based Children of the Gospel Children’s Choir, and, for the first time, feature a sermon delivered by a woman.

After listing various clerical participants an their roles, including representatives from Episcopalians, Baptists, independent black churches, Greek Orthodox, Catholics, the Disciples of Christ, the Reform Church of America, Reform Judaism, it goes on to list clerics who will be given particularly significant roles:
Responsive prayers given by six leaders will symbolize America’s traditions of religious tolerance and freedom:

—Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North America, Hartford, CT
—Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship, New York City
—Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Director, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
—Rev. Carol Wade of the Washington National Cathedral
—Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York City
—Rev. Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners, Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurunm (Orthodox), New York City
—Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, TX.
Most American (and Canadian) Jews are, I am sure, pleased to see the general tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity displayed by the selection of this list of participants, and particularly pleased that three rabbis where on the overall program.

But not the Rabbinic Assembly. It issued a condemnation of Rabbi Lookstein !
NEW YORK (JTA) -- The main Modern Orthodox rabbinical association says a prominent member violated its rules by participating in the National Prayer Service.

A Rabbinical Council of America official told JTA that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the religious leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, broke the organization's rules by participating in the service Wednesday at the National Cathedral on the morning after Barack Obama's inauguration.

“The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Council of America, in accordance with Jewish law, is that participation in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited," the RCA said in a statement. "Any member of the RCA who attends such a service does so in contravention of this policy and should not be perceived as representing the organization in any capacity."

The RCA said that Lookstein’s participation was problematic both because the service was held in the sanctuary of a church, which Orthodox Jews are prohibited from entering, and because it was an interfaith prayer service, which the RCA discourages for fear that such participation could allow missionaries to legitimize their argument that Jews can indeed embrace Jesus.

“To go into a cathedral, in this case an Episcopalian cathedral in the main sanctuary, is certainly by most accounts not appropriate," the executive director of the RCA, Rabbi Basil Herring, told JTA. "If one wants to visit the Sistine Chapel to view the art of Michelangelo it is problematic ...

(See full report from the JTA here.)

If the Modern Orthodox want to be separatists, that is there right, but then why are they different then the haredim who live in their ghettos and have as little to do with the outside world as they can. How are they "Modern". This just emphasizes and re-enforces the rightward drift (and increasing irrelevance) of the Modern Orthodox. Too bad. This movement once had promise of bridging the divide between the traditional Jewish communities and liberal Jewish communities. No more.

Judaism is bifurcating and there seems to be no middle ground.

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