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Soloveitchik On Interfaith Dialogue

Soloveitchik On Interfaith Dialogue

Publisher and Editor Gary Rosenblatt very cogently states the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s position on interfaith dialogue (“YU’s Schachter Accused Of Obsolete Views On Church,” Aug. 21). Rosenblatt writes “…the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, a towering figure of 20th-century Orthodoxy in America, was opposed to interfaith dialogue on theological matters.”                                                                                                                  

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, whom Rosenblatt describes as “rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva University” and “a much revered teacher, decisor and one of the most respected religious authorities in the Orthodox community” and “a leading disciple of the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik”, wrote a dvar Torah with which a coalition of 35 pro-interfaith-dialogue groups took umbrage.

The thrust of the dvar Torah, the way I read it, is that Rabbi Schachter castigates those “who claim to be ‘disciples’” of Rabbi Soloveitchik, “The Rav”, who blatantly go against his teaching and engage in dialogue. As I wrote in my memoir in “Mentor of Generations” (Ktav 2008), the Rav’s “Da’as Torah” [Torah knowledge] on such policy issues as interfaith dialogue is authoritative. It certainly is halachically binding on those who claim to be his disciples. He did not speak to the pro-interfaith-dialogue community as a whole.

Rabbi Schachter was well within his rights and indeed perhaps even duty bound, by dint of his position, to publicly rebuke those rabbis. What is especially egregious is the fact that people who see these rabbis engaging in dialogue will assume that Rabbi Soloveitchik himself was pro-dialogue. Not everybody is as knowledgeable in Jewish thought as publisher Rosenblatt and would know what Rabbi Soloveitchik’s position truly was.

I was heartened, however, to see so many reading I urge the coalition members to continue to do so and may the light of the Torah contained on it inform their lives.

Monsey, N.Y.

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