At Agudath Israel of America’s 92nd Anniversary Dinner [last] week, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, who is a member of Agudath Israel’s Council of Torah Sages and serves as the Rosh Agudath Israel, delivered remarks that have been grossly mischaracterized and unjustly vilified in certain media reports.
Most objectionable is the statement in The New York Times that “Rabbi Perlow offered a shower of condemnation for Reform and Conservative Jews.” He did nothing of the sort.
Rabbi Perlow’s focus was on Reform and Conservative Judaism, not on Reform and Conservative Jews — on ideologies, not on people. Indeed, the main focus of his remarks was on a movement that calls itself Orthodox — “Open Orthodoxy” — yet has also crossed boundaries that have long established the parameters of normative Jewish practice and belief.
Rabbi Perlow was simply reiterating what Agudath Israel leaders have been stating since the founding of the organization nearly a century ago, and what painful demographic realities have made increasingly clear in recent years: that there is no Jewish future in ideological movements that have abandoned foundation principles of the Judaism of the ages.
Rabbi Perlow, and the community of Orthodox Jews who look to him as a leader, have nothing but love and concern for all Jews, regardless of their affiliation, regardless of how misled they may be by their religious leaders.
Precisely because of such love and concern, Agudath Israel believes that it is incumbent upon those who care about their fellow Jews and the Jewish future to call attention to the dangers of deviation from classical Judaism, to prevent what Rabbi Perlow referred to as Jews “fall[ing] into an abyss of intermarriage and assimilation.” Such clarion calls are heartfelt expressions of Ahavat Yisrael, love for fellow-Jews, not its opposite, Heaven forbid!
How to ensure the Jewish future is the most important challenge on the collective Jewish agenda today. We hope and pray that all the attention generated by Rabbi Perlow’s remarks will motivate serious people of good will and genuine Ahavat Yisroel to begin to confront that challenge, urgently and responsibly.