As the column, “Can We Still Talk To Each Other? Do We Really Want To? (Between The Lines, March 22), inadvertently shows, there is not a problem with interdenominational cooperation; there is a problem with the lack of cooperation between Orthodox and non-Orthodox.
Reform and Conservative rabbis and congregations seem to get along quite well. So let’s start by calling it what it is.
Now, I agree that there is real value in fostering interdenominational togetherness. However, again, let’s start by calling things what they are. For example, it is not (only) that the Orthodox typically have much more Jewish education than liberal Jews. And it isn’t only that the Orthodox don’t want to “lend credibility” to the liberal denominations.
For one thing, the denominations don’t agree on what constitutes Jewish education, since they don’t agree on which rabbis have valid points of view. And as far as “credibility” goes, it is pretty hard to develop a cooperative relationship with someone who starts out by demonstrating that he thinks it’s up to him whether to grant you “credibility”
It is also true that in many areas, liberal Judaism doesn’t approve of Orthodox positions, such as on the subject of homosexuals and on the treatment of women. (And by the way, our rejection of the Orthodox treatment of women is not because we don’t understand their position; it’s because we don’t agree with it.)
So let’s start by respecting our differences and recognizing the realistic limitations that these differences place on our ability to join together. Then let’s figure out what we can realistically do and, finally, let’s figure out what we want to do. As the article amply demonstrates “Clal Yisrael” is just a sentimental slogan in today’s world. Hammering out a real working relationship between Orthodox and non-Orthodox is a much harder (but potentially much more valuable) objective.