I’m glad you asked for a clarification on “dialogue,” Jeff. Perhaps I didn’t express it well, because, as someone put it briefly on the comments board, “Isn’t the last paragraph what got Rabbi Reinman in trouble?”
In fact, having looked at the page to which Barry referred us, I have to concede the point. We do not want a situation where an Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Rabbi sit side by side and explain their views, any more than we look forward to a situation where two Reverends join our Rabbi for a nice three-way dialogue. People came out against Rabbi Reinman’s book precisely because it was portrayed as official recognition by one of the other. As you said earlier, “Reform Judaism” is an entirely different faith stream from “traditional Judaism.”
Traditional Judaism believes that we learn about G-d from the Torah, written and oral. Reform Judaism rejects the authority of Talmud, the Divinity of Torah (in an absolute sense), and (in the words of Rabbi Eric Yoffie) calls upon congregants to “reach out to our [Christian] neighbors and listen for G-d’s presence in their voices.” Reform Judaism values a type of dialogue that traditional Judaism regards as superfluous or even detrimental.
There is, however, a big difference between engaging the Rabbi and engaging the people. And I agree that what I said was not clear, because I had the latter in mind.
When Jews get together, it isn’t “interfaith dialogue” — or at least, it need not be. We do all agree that Torah study is important. Are you saying that an Orthodox congregation would turn down the opportunity to sit down with a congregation of Reform Jews, at a neutral site, and learn Torah with them? Again, not to hear an address by the Rabbis, but to simply study Torah together.
There are (tens of ?) thousands of Rabbinical students wandering door-to-door in Israel, wanting to know if people want to learn Torah together. Community kollelim (schools for married adults) now dot this country, as well as other outreach organizations. Call 1-800-STUDY-4-2 and any Reform, Conservative, or you-name-it Jew can get a study partner right now. Orthodox partners are standing by!
So that is what I had in mind, and that is what we value and look forward to. There is more to say, along with a reply to my good friend Sholom Simon…