Rabbi Chaim Brovender has an "Ask the Rabbi" column in the Jerusalem Post. I'd always heard good things about Rabbi Bovender. Here is a brief synopsis of his career from the Jerusalem Post that explains some of them:
…He moved to Israel before the Six Day War and delivered mail on a motor scooter. He served in the IDF. After the Six Day War, the young Yeshiva University graduate and graduate student in Semitic languages at Hebrew University, began opening the world of Jewish literacy to college graduates arriving from abroad. The typical Brovender students had Ivy League degrees, but they couldn't tell you why the menora in the Temple had seven branches and a Hanukkah menora had eight. Rabbi Brovender directed them to Torah study and developed a successful method for imparting the tools they would need to decode the primary sources of the Jewish people. He guided them through life choices with his mix of straight talk and criticism-deflecting humor. Because his credo was that everyone should study Torah, that meant women, too. So he started groundbreaking women's study centers in Jerusalem, including classes in Talmud. A learned friend confided that she had known that "Brovender's" was synonym for advanced Torah education for women before she knew that there was indeed a Chaim Brovender behind it all.
THE YESHIVOT had different names - Hartman's, Shapell's, Yeshivat Hamivtar, Bruria, Midreshet Lindenbaum - but wherever they were, what made his study programs especially attractive was Rabbi Brovender's respect for the individualism of each student. He wouldn't have been proud if the Harvard medical student or the Bennington poet had abandoned their secular studies. Just the opposite. He hoped that the special skills, talents and knowledge of those educated in the secular world could now be brought into the religious world and would enrich it, just as the Torah world would enrich those who embraced it in the secular world.…
Rabbi Brovender also founded ATID.
Yet a recent Ask the Rabbi column has this question and answer:
Q: On a French website Q&A, it was said that it is forbidden to give a gift to a goy. Is it your opinion? Thank you.
A: The question of whether we can give presents to a non Jew is discussed in the gemara and properly formalized in the Rambam and the shuclchan aruch. The Rambam says (Matnot Aniyim 7,7):
Jews are obliged to support the poor non-Jew with the poor of Yisrael, and this because it is the way of Shalom."
In the laws of Avoda Zara 10 4, the Rambam lists certain limitations in our dealing with the non Jew and ends by saying "and you cannot give them a present if it is for no particular reason".
The Rambam summarizes in Melachim 10 12:
"The Rabbis directed us regarding the non-Jews to visit their sick and to bury their dead with the Jewish dead, and to support their poor with the poor of Yisrael, and all of this in order to maintain the peace".
In theory the notion that Jews need to be separate has much to commend itself. Clearly, in this world living in peace with your friends and neighbors is and important principle. The Rambam tells us that we have to navigate the two positions intelligently and that chazal have given us some operative directives. If you feel that it is important to give a present to a non Jew, then by all means do so. Shalom, peace, trumps all the other possibilities.
Understand this well. Following this line of reasoning, a Jew can only give a gift to a non-Jew if giving that gift serves a purpose for the Jew. Either it must benefit the Jew in some tangible way (a gift to one's employer on his birthday, for example) or it must be given to prevent antisemitism.
But you can't give a gift to your neighbor just because s/he's your friend.
Orthodoxy views non-Jews as inferiors. In an ideal world, according to Orthodoxy, Jews would have no contact with non-Jews at all. Non-Jews would be completely shunned.
As it stands, this is not feasible, largely because non-Jews, experiencing this shunning, might react with hatred and, as long as they are the majority and greatly outnumber us, this hatred could lead to violence and Jewish deaths.
Rabbi Brovender, a Centrist or Modern Orthodox rabbi, cites the Rambam approvingly, as if nothing had changed since the 12th century.
Worse yet, Rabbi Brovender's approach turns the concept of Ohr LaGoyyim (a light onto the nations) into a one way street. Jews take but only give for the most venal and self-serving of reasons.
Judaism needs a major overhaul, a true reformation.
Those of us upset at the corruption and backwardness of the haredi world often delude ourselves into believing Modern Orthodoxy holds promise, that it will somehow stand up to haredi threats and abuses and win out in the end.
Increasingly, it is clear to me that hope is misplaced.