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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Further Thoughts About Chabad

01/05/06 Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Please read the previous posting on this blog about Chabad

What is astonishing about Chabad and many other Orthodox outreach organizations is how they have abandoned a long held resistance to outreach within the traditional community. One has only to read the responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein which warn of the corrupting aspects of acceptance of non-orthodox Jews to see how far Chabad has traveled toward working with non-Orthodox Jews. Every single Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin I have met exudes a love of Jews and the Jewish people. You know where each of them stands regarding observance, but they never make you feel bad or guilty for not observing on their level. They emphasize the positive and avoid the negative like the plague.

I was always impressed with how Chabad emissaries open their homes and share their Jewish lives. It is the Hachnasat Orchim-the hospitality to others that is the most impressive and long lasting impression. Over time as I came to know more about Chabad I grew very troubled by their religious ideology. But I could never dispute the humanity, the empathy, and the joy of these folks. In this case their humanity and their spiritual passion overwhelms the very problematic ideology.

Chabad is a superb example of what happens when a Jewish community places hospitality, empathy, and joy at the core of religious life. People are hungry for this and love Chabad for it, even though they cannot embrace it fully. Is there a form of Jewish life that can embrace these values and combine it with other approaches to Jewish life?

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