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 During my recent stay in the United States last month, I was invited to speak in a few institutions and at certain events taking place in the New York area. I accepted a number of these invitations and I spoke at a leading institution of learning that is usually identified as being the flagship of the modern Orthodox section of American Jewry. I also spoke at a banquet held in honor of one of the oldest Charedi yeshivot here in Israel. I was gratified that my words were received well at both venues and I gave some thought to any political implications that others may derive from the fact that I was the speaker at both events. However, last week, someone here in Israel who apparently knew of my schedule when I was in the United States remarked to me, only half-jokingly :  “I thought that you are a man of principle but I see that you are willing to speak for completely conflicting ideologies and to do so without compunction."

 I was taken aback by this comment. No one wants to be accused of being someone who lacks principles and of being ineffective and somewhat of a chameleon. Not willing to engage in any sort of heated debate and since I really have no relationship to the person that was challenging me, I pretty much let the matter pass without really responding to the criticism. I must admit though, on reflection over the past week, the matter certainly rankled me, not because of the personal affront but rather because of the attitude and viewpoint of my critic. More importantly, I am most certainly concerned that this attitude and approach to Jewish life is dominant in all sections of the Jewish world today.
Orthodox Jewry, and in fact the Jewish people generally over our long and distinguished history, has always reflected different ideas and viewpoints with the major dividing line being the observance of the commandments of the Torah and the loyalty to its teachings. Those groups or individuals that maintained this loyalty and behavior were always part of the general matrix of Jewish history and destiny even though, in terms of dress, language, secular education and general occupations, they differed greatly from their counterparts.
When I grew up in Chicago the line between Jews was a very simple one to observe – one was either a Sabbath observer or not. Those who were not would eventually form assimilated families with a loss of connection with the Jewish people. Those who were observant, no matter what their political affiliation or world outlook would somehow always retain their place amongst the Jewish people and live to see Jewish generations come from them.
I would've thought that the Holocaust would have reinforced the idea that as far as the outside world is concerned, all Jews are one and the same. But during our time, maybe because of the bitter and continual political infighting that characterizes some aspects of our wonderful little State of Israel, the ideological lines within Orthodox Jewry have been drawn very tightly and narrowly. It has become difficult, and in some cases well-nigh impossible, for different groups of Orthodox Jews to even speak to each other and exchange ideas, policies and vision. If one were to speak to differing groups within Orthodoxy, then apparently, as my critic pointed out, one would no longer be considered a man of principle.
I think that speaking to different sections of the Jewish people marks one as being a person of positive principle and good values. If one does not have a broader view of the Jewish people and continues to stand exclusivity for one's own sub society and viewpoint then that person has lost a great sense of the value that should exist within the Jewish people as a whole. The Torah records for us that we were a nation composed of 12 different tribes with different identities and outlooks. Each group within Orthodoxy claims great leaders and scholars and this is certainly true. No one has an exclusive claim to the Torah’s knowledge. It should be obvious that there is an overriding principle that outweighs narrower behavior and outlook. It is this broader view that I feel is most necessary in our time, when the Jewish world requires so much healing and strengthening.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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