This week’s Baltimore Jewish Times talks about the blog, but the Cover Story is about Reform Rabbi Bradd Boxman, who joined Temple Har Sinai 18 months ago. He’s an avid hockey player, and he is quoted as saying “when I’m out there on the ice… I just want to curse and be one of the guys.” But I’ll leave a discussion of whether nivul peh (cleanliness of speech) is an ethical or ritual law, not to mention the propriety of a religious leader playing the most violent team sport in America (at least since they started wearing helmets playing lacrosse) to others. Many Jews used to box, so what do I know.
What rankles me is the following quote: “It’s sad that the traditional or ultra-Orthodox have little to do with us. That’s a sadness, that there are ‘Torah-true’ Jews and everyone else is ‘goyim.’ That’s what destroyed us when the Second Temple fell.”
Start mending the fences by not calling us names. By now, everyone seriously involved in Jewish communal work, certainly here in Baltimore, knows that we do not appreciate the term “ultra-Orthodox.” Call us “fervently Orthodox,” or “charedim,” or late-to-dinner, but the ultra- term is universally regarded as a pejorative.
Getting to the substance of the matter, there are more than five different types of Orthodox educational programs in Baltimore serving a non-Orthodox clientele. Besides Project Genesis, there’s Etz Chayim Baltimore, Etz Chayim Owings Mills, Aish HaTorah of Owings Mills, and Effie Flamm’s work at Towson University (and, as many readers were quick to remind me, Chabad). We Orthodox Jews (unlike Rabbi Boxman) do not believe in outreach to non-Jews. So if we believe non-Orthodox Jews are “goyim” (and that word, too, is a pejorative), then why all this outreach?
Larry Ziffer, director of the Center for Jewish Education of Baltimore (an agency of the Associated Jewish Charities, the local federation), sports a black yarmulke and beard. Howard Tzvi Friedman, who co-chaired the Associated campaign a year or two ago, learned in Ner Yisrael. I don’t know what circles Rabbi Boxman travels in, but in Baltimore it’s hard to avoid so-called “ultra-Orthodox” Jews in Jewish communal life.
I haven’t heard from Rabbi Boxman. I would tell him that his colleague Larry Raphael, former director of Adult Jewish Growth for the Union for Reform Judaism, and now Lecturer on Professional Education at HUC, endorsed Torah.org as “a valuable resource and effective program for the entire Internet community.” I obviously didn’t get that kind of endorsement by refusing to talk to him.
Take some time in the penalty box, Bradd. And when you get back into the game, at least acknowledge we’re out there on the same ice.