A former president of the RCA is taking an important stand on what has become a tough issue in Orthodoxy – how Orthodox Jews view and relate to non-Jews. The New Jersey Jewish News reports:
Are yeshiva and day school students taught to value friendships with non-Jews, or are they being given lessons in fear and mistrust?
Rabbi Kenneth Hain, former president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, has been asking this question and has found some disturbing answers.
“Extreme views are current and popular. It’s easy to be lazy and name-call,” he said. “People have a lack of appreciation and think of non-Jews in simplistic ways.”
Hain, religious leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence, NY, believes such attitudes are prevalent in day school and yeshiva education. “People are kind of shocked when they get to college campuses after 12 years in Jewish day school or yeshiva and find out non-Jews are real people, too, and they have worthwhile, valuable, and intelligent things to say,” he said in an interview.…
[H]e describes ramifications for social action and tzedaka. “What does Jewish tradition say about saving the life of a non-Jew? And what about charity — which has priority, the victims of [Hurricane] Katrina or the Jews of Jerusalem?”
Hain does not intend to resolve these tensions — only to warn of the danger in not confronting them.
Rabbi Hain is speaking on this topic at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston on Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Would anyone care to tape this and/or report on this for us? If you're able to do this, please let me know.