Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

From Our Archives: Shubert Spero – Orthodoxy Vis a Vis The General Community: Does Participation Imply Recognition?

December 5, 2009 by  
Filed under From Our Archives, Jewish Culture

One of the most hotly debated questions in the 20th century within the Orthodox community related to the appropriateness of Orthodox rabbis joining rabbinic umbrella organizations comprised of rabbis from various denominations.  One of the primary arguments against participation was that any form of formal association implies recognition and acceptance of non-Orthodox groups. 

In the featured article from our archives (8:4 – Winter 1966), Rabbi Shubert Spero breaks down the logic behind this claim and questions whether it remains compelling.   The article was in part inspired by the famous psak of the Igud Ha-Rabbonim, including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Aharon Kotler, prohibiting participation in the Synagogue Council of America and the New York Board of Rabbis.  The heated politics around this issue prevented Rav Soloveitchik, on behalf of the RCA’s Halakha Commission, from issuing a formal statement on this matter.

For more information, see Chapter 5 of Rabbi Louis Bernstein, Challenge and Mission, 1982, as well as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Community, Covenant, and Commitment, ed. Nathaniel Helfgot, p. 151-156. 

For a 1986 article by Rabbi Walter Wurzburger on a similar theme, see here.

- Shlomo Brody

* Thanks to Prof. David Shatz for referring me to Rabbi Spero’s article. 

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