While in Israel the Orthodox communities are organizing for
what former MK Moshe Gafni described as "Preparation to
launch an all-out war against the de facto recognition of
Reform and Conservative," in other Orthodox communities
throughout the world, compromises are being sought in the
interest of "harmony" among various Jewish factions. In
Israel this is properly recognized as an issue that touches
on the preservation of Torah itself.
It is the old struggle, already discussed over 140 years ago
by HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, between truth and peace.
Peace is extremely important and we must sacrifice whatever
we have for it, wrote HaRav Hirsch, but the truth is not ours
to offer. We cannot win peace at the expense of truth.
It is always important, as the London Beis Din says, to
minimize tensions in the community and to encourage unity. We
definitely feel that all Jews are our brethren, and are
deeply concerned about all aspects of their welfare. One
indication of this, certainly from our perspective, is the
tremendous effort we invest in trying to communicate the
sweetness and goodness of Torah to those who have not had the
opportunity to see it for themselves. Our arms and hearts are
constantly open to our brothers and sisters.
However, our love and concern for all our fellow Jews does
not necessitate that we compromise the principles of Torah.
The only reasonable way we have of preserving ourselves and
helping others is by guarding the fundamentals of Torah,
which has preserved us through our long golus in the
face of many difficult obstacles.
The sterility and futility of attempts to foster artificial
unity among the Orthodox, Torah-committed Jews and the Reform
and Conservative who deny Torah is clearly evident in the
American experience. The gedolim all prohibited
participation in organizations such as the New York Board of
Rabbis and the Synagogue Council of America. The latter
eventually just folded up a few years ago, and the former has
borne no fruit. It has done nothing at all for American
Therefore it behooves us to understand the motives of the lay
leadership of the United Synagogue in England in attempting
to create a joint platform with the Reform, Liberal and
Masorati groups there. The United Synagogue was always the
guardian of Orthodox Jewish tradition in England, guided by a
beis din manned by gedolei Yisroel including
such Torah giants as HaRav Yechezkel Abramski, zt'l.
The Chief Rabbi was always the public spokesman for the
community according to the rulings of the Beis Din.
It is therefore paradoxical that the lay leadership of the
United Synagogue should come to any agreements with heretical
groups without even consulting its own Beis Din, which is so
clearly against any agreements.
Most upsetting too is the position of Chief Rabbi Jonathan
Sacks. In a letter dated November 16 of this year, Rabbi
Sacks made it quite clear that he supports the agreement. He
writes: ". . . I welcome the agreement signed by the lay
leaders of four communal bodies to promote more harmonious
relationships in Anglo-Jewry." Rabbi Sacks used "darkhei
shalom" as his answer in Jewish law to justify his
It is our opinion and that of many Orthodox leaders in
England that I have spoken with, that Mr. Elkan Levy,
president of the United Synagogue who actually signed on the
agreement, did so in consultation with Rabbi Sacks.
Nonetheless, this cannot exempt Mr. Levy from his share of
the responsibility. Still, at this time it is certainly Rabbi
Sacks who has the authority and the responsibility to stop
What is also upsetting is the fact that Rabbi Sacks has taken
a public position on a controversial issue which is a matter
of Jewish law (as he admits in his letter), without
consulting with the London Beis Din which is the final
authority on halachic matters for the United Synagogue.
It is beyond the scope of the article to discuss the details
of the agreement drafted in London, and it is not really
important. The agreement itself legitimizes other forms of
"Judaism" which do not recognize the Torah as the word of
Hashem and as the only authority, and therefore it is
essentially not acceptable. There is absolutely no
possibility of any type of dialogue or discussion in this
The bitter experience of the United States should have taught
the English some lessons about the destruction that such
unwarranted cooperation brings.
As I prepare these lines, it is not clear whether the United
Synagogue leadership has retracted its plans. What is clear
is that the British rabbinical establishment will not allow
any compromise. The plan must be completely scrapped. There
can be no religious cooperation or recognition of people who
do not accept Torah miSinai as their guiding
principle. United Synagogue must decide whether it wants to
continue its glorious tradition or to be discredited by the
I conclude with my brocho of chazak ve'ematz to
the London Beis Din and the rabbinical authorities of England
who have taken a strong position to preserve true Judaism in
Europe. The obligation is now on Rabbi Sacks to cancel the
whole agreement and allow the Torah authorities to decide all