Orthodox – Non-Orthodox Relations In Los Angeles

Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe has said that L.A. has the worst Orthodox-Conservative relations in the country.

Yet LimmudLA has at least two Orthodox rabbis speaking (Elazar Muskin and Yosef Kanefsky) and a string of Orthodox laity presenting. The New York Orthodox rabbinate boycotted the New York limmud.

Joe emails: "Not true.  There was a major Yeshiva University presence including prominent rebbeim and a whole day of Limmud dedicated to discussions of the legacy of the Rav."

In some ways, Pico-Robertson is a bastion of Modern Orthodoxy.

There are only a couple Orthodox rabbis in Los Angeles willing to sit on the Federation’s Board of Rabbis with their non-Orthodox counterparts. Unlike his predecessor Abner Weiss, Beth Jacob’s Rabbi Steven Weil won’t sit on the Board of Rabbis.

Jacob Berkman writes for JTA:

The most significant differences in opinion between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox center on Israel and the Iraq war, according to the survey, which has been conducted annually since 1997.

According to the survey, 69 percent of Orthodox Jews said they feel "very close" to Israel, compared to 29 percent of Conservative Jews and 22 percent of Reform Jews. Only 4 percent of the Orthodox said they feel "fairly distant," as opposed to 14 percent of Conservatives and 25 percent of the Reform.

Fifty-seven percent of Orthodox Jews said the United States "did the right thing" when it invaded Iraq and support U.S. military action against Iran. Only 27 percent of Conservative Jews backed the Iraq war and 38 percent favored strikes against the Islamic Republic; among Reform Jews the totals were 22 percent and 32 percent.

…Sylvia Barack Fishman, a professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University, suggested that the gaps are explained in large part by a greater commitment among Orthodox Jews to the idea of Jewish peoplehood.

…The divide is exacerbated by an Orthodox community that is becoming more and more right wing, due largely to the amount of time that young Orthodox Jews spend in Israel, according to Steven Bayme, the director of the AJCommittee’s Department of Contemporary Jewish Life.

It has become a rite of passage for Orthodox Jewish day school and yeshiva students to spend a year or two years studying at yeshivas in Israel after high school and before college. Those yeshivas, Bayme said, are ideologically incompatible with mainstream American Jewish thought.

"The faculties at the institutions they attend tend to project attitudes that are far more to the conservative end of the spectrum on all the social political issues and are in many ways dissonant from the dominant attitudes of American Jews in general," said Bayme, who is Modern Orthodox.

The divide only stands to get worse as the Orthodox grow in importance, Bayme predicted.

Orthodox Jews now account for about 9 percent of Jews who affiliate with a synagogue, but they comprise 17 percent of the affiliated population aged 19-25. About 228,000 Orthodox Jews are younger than 18, compared to 155,000 Conservative and 190,000 Reform — Orthodox children, in other words, make up 38 percent of that younger cohort.

"If you are looking at the next generation of who will be Jewish leaders, in the year 2050," Bayme said, "if you are looking at who is going to be sufficiently concerned about Jewish community and Jewish peoplehood activities, one sociologist suggests that 50 percent of that universe of people concerned with Jewish life may be Orthodox."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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