The Agudah Dinner – The More Important Issue


Great attention has been paid to the recent Agudah Dinner, an unusual circumstance arising from the publicity given to the speech of the Novominsker Rebbe and the failure – if that is an appropriate term – of Mayor de Blasio to respond to the Rebbe’s criticism of Open Orthodoxy and the non-Orthodox movements.  We have been treated to a barrage of anti-charedi bigotry, beginning with The Forward and continuing more importantly to Michael Powell of the New York Times who with regularity utilizes his column as a vehicle to attack religious Jews.

There are good reasons to protest Powell’s bigotry, starting with his frequent use of the term “ultra-Orthodox,” a term that I believe is both sociologically inaccurate and fraught with hostility.  It is of note that in writing about other ethnic and religious groups, a number of which have front and center adherents whose extremism dwarfs by a great deal anything that can be found among the Orthodox, the term “ultra” is never applied.  We are once more the chosen people in the New York Times and elsewhere, chosen for contempt and even worse.

But for all of the understandable discussion of what happened or did not happen at the Agudah Dinner, it strikes me that there is a collateral issue that has gotten zero attention.  That issue is the invitation to the Mayor to participate, whether to speak or just to grace the dais.  I was active in Agudath Israel for about a quarter of a century, attending its conventions, dinners and being involved in much else.  The dais at dinners always consisted of Gedolei Torah and other outstanding community leaders.  I do not recall a single instance where political figures, including those with important governmental positions, were seated on the dais.

At some point, things changed.  In truth, that wasn’t the only change.  Whereas Agudah events used to be rough and tumble affairs and even at the Annual Dinner, controversial words could be spoken, things became sanitized.  Everything was to be clockwork, the apparent purpose being to present Agudah as an all-encompassing organization.  There is more to write about this development, but not here.  What I wish to focus on is the decision to invite leading governmental and public officials and for them to be accorded honor.  Again, that did not happen previously in the Agudah, not at conventions, not at dinners and even not at the Knessiah Gedolahs that were more universal affairs.

We are living through the social earthquake that is gay marriage.  Certainly in New York, every top official is an ardent supporter of gay marriage and the Mayor surely is.  Mr. de Blasio stands for a heck of a lot of things that are anathema for the Agudah and for the Orthodox community.  Why the invitation?  Why the desire to be popular?  Is the Agudah Dinner to become an Orthodox Jewish counterpart to the Catholic Church’s annual Al Smith Dinner where major public figures are invited to participate and even to speak, irrespective of how much their views and actions depart from the belief system of the sponsoring organization?

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1 year 3 months ago

“[History] is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of right and wrong,” writes J.A. Froude. “Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false word or unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to be paid at last: not always by the chief offenders, but paid by someone. Justice and truth alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long-lived, but doomsday comes at last to them, in .. revolutions and other terrible ways.” (James Anthony Froude, Short Studies in Great Subjects)

(If as Baruch claims challilah “it has left the gate” who is largely at fault?

The non-jews, in their guts sense , as Joe Biden proclaimed, it is primarily the jews who are responsible for the seismic social quake.

Oh,the modox paens when Kegan was nominated to the Court)

Remember a short five years ago only (astonishing really) States that held referenda on marriage had the record in favor of retaining traditional marriage 31-0!

For those authentic Orthodox Jews who have stood firm but maintain still a certain smugness
cf. Seforno Genesis 6:8.

1 year 3 months ago


yes same sex “marriage passed, but that is only a part of larger fight

Right now in New York State they are pushing for GENDA (a bill that could force a kosher pizza store to have a man in a dress behind the counter), a bill that would ban conversion therapy which many Rabbanim from all stripes have supported (from R Tendler, to R Shmuel Kamenetsky).

Even further on the horizons is Euthanasia and actually trying to force Yeshiva to teach about homosexuality in a “positive” light.

1 year 3 months ago

Chaskel Bennett

Many members of the Agudath Israel Board have helped elect people who were the critical in causing the “deteriorating societal moral climate”.

In fact if not for people locked into the Agudath Israel world same sex “marriage” may not have passed, many of the areas in NY State that Agudath Israel has as strong role, also have politicians who voted for same sex “marriage”.

In fact I can say with out a shadow of a doubt, if the ENTIRE Orthodox Jewish Community would have voted against all politicians who supported the LGBT agenda then same sex “marriage” would not have had the votes to pass.

Agudath Israel’s publicly supporting Cuomo (even though he would have been elected anyways, allows people (even from other camps) to support local politicians (ex. Weisenberg, Jafee, Weinstein etc) who vote against our community’s true values).

In fact one of the biggest Chilul Hashems’s in modern times (and one that possibly helped pass same sex “marriage”) was that Mayor Bloomberg publicly left a same sex “marriage” rally early to go to the Agudath Israel’s dinner. To see how just how evil that act was lets say I’m young (18 year old) Modern Orthodox Jew who knows that same sex “marriage” is wrong and I read in the paper that Bloomberg had to leave the GAY “MARRIAGE rally early to go to the “Ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel’s dinner, how can I now be against it (vote against the politicians that support it and later caused it to pass).

A few years ago a non Jewish candidate (who was familiar with many “askonim” including Agudath Israel’s Shmuel Lefkowitz) who was running against a long time assemblywoman with a very strong Agudath Israel presence told me that she will not campaign against same sex “marriage” “because our community only cares about getting a bigger share of the pie”

A few questions also bothered me with what you wrote
1. would you also have had Quinn speak at the Agudath Israel dinner
2. How come I don’t recall anti-morality politicians next To Rav Moshe, Rav Yaakov, etc.?

Bob Miller
1 year 3 months ago

Chaskel Bennett wrote, above: “While criticisms (legitimate or nitpicking) are
par for the course for a large and active communal organization, in this
particular case, Dr. Schick’s recollections are simply incorrect.”

Which criticisms have been acknowledged as legitimate by this organization? What was done in response?