Steve Rothman responds

In response to a February 15 letter from Lee Shaiman of Wayne (“Rothman should attack Democrats”), I write to share with your readers a statement that I sent to various local newspapers and websites on February 11th:

“I condemn Rep. Ilhan Omar’s factually erroneous perspective and her hate-inspiring remarks.

“She should be referred to the House Ethics Committee for suggesting that her colleagues in the House vote for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship because they have been bribed.”

Steve Rothman

(Mr. Rothman, a Democrat, is a former congressman)

Bolstering a shabby defense

It seems like Rabbi Dr. Mitchell Rocklin wanted to bolster his shabby defense of the RCBC’s decision on female clergy with an even shabbier smear of “open Orthodoxy” (an imaginary denomination, but a convenient bogeyman for those fighting legitimate social, religious, and intellectual trends within Orthodox Judaism). (“Explaining the RCBCs decision to allow only mal synagogue clergy,” February 22.) Although we might be grateful to Rabbi Rocklin for exposing a dark conspiracy involving “non-Orthodox Jewish money” and nefarious actors from — gasp! — Riverdale.

Also: Rabbi Rocklin and other Orthodox triumphalists who trumpet the “success” of our denomination ought to ask themselves what brought our own community to this point, if not our institutions’ inability to satisfy the needs of all its members. That’s hardly the picture of unqualified success. Not to mention the host of other issues plaguing Orthodoxy, including, for starters, the tuition crisis, the denial of adequate secular education to children in many Orthodox communities, and creeping Kahanism.

David S. Zinberg

The Rav vs. uniformity

Presuming to justify the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County’s recent proclamation prohibiting female congregational interns, Rabbi Dr. Mitchell Rocklin, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America’s executive committee, depicts an American Orthodoxy that demands uniform religious styles. (“Explaining the RCBCs decision to allow only male synagogue clergy,” February 22.)

He cites as his primary example of American Orthodoxy’s “common basic standards” the “spread of the Young Israel movement’s uniform prayer style.”

Perhaps Rabbi Rocklin and some of his colleagues who now control the RCA and related organizations such as the Orthodox Union should stop publishing siddurim and machzorim that profess to contain the prayer customs of Rabbi Dr. Joseph Soloveitchik as they were followed in his community and shul. Those practices were quite different than the apparent “uniform style” of Young Israel synagogues. Indeed, I suppose Rabbi Rocklin’s penchant for uniformity would have made the Rav’s shul quite discomforting for him.

More generally, I suppose Rabbi Rocklin would not have agreed with the Rav’s celebration of diverse religious (and rabbinic) styles. In 1972, the Rav delivered a speech to the Chevra Shas of Boston promoting different religious styles and highlighting the diverging approaches of four rabbinic luminaries. In that speech, the Rav stated: “style is individualistic, unique and singular; it cannot be imitated or emulated…. Developing a style of one’s own gives one a sense of happiness, satisfaction and meaningfulness. It inspires him and arouses ecstasy in him.” (Halakhic Morality, pp. 199-200)

It is definitionally the case that halakhic Judaism makes objective demands on its adherents when it comes to strict halakhic questions. But there was a time when the modern Orthodox community proudly proclaimed that such uniformity did not blunt the style and individuality of particular constituencies, communities and individuals.

I wonder if that remains true today.

Daniel D. Edelman

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