As tension built between Washington and Jerusalem last week, Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, a leader of the Orthodox movement, rose to urge American Jewry’s primary umbrella group to issue a clear statement strongly condemning U.S. pressure on Israel.
Instantly, a chorus of no’s echoed in the Manhattan meeting room of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. And conference chairman Melvin Salberg, ever sensitive to the consensus the group needed to act, told Ganchrow quickly, “I think you have your answer, Mendy.”
As the "Sensation" storm raged last month, the fact that a Catholic mayor was accusing the Brooklyn Museum's Jewish director of promoting Catholic bashing was noted but not highlighted.
Now with the controversy being decided in Manhattan Federal Court, Jewish involvement in the affair is being scrutinized further, even as it becomes clearer that the city's Jewish community has split along political lines.
When the Synagogue Council of America — the only national rabbinic group representing Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewry — broke up in 1994 after 68 years, observers said it underscored the growing rift between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews.
“Maybe it has outlived its usefulness,” mused member Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills at that time.
Reform and Conservative leaders are pointing to the findings of a poll — ironcially, commissioned by an Orthodox group — as proof that Israelis are increasingly receptive to the liberal streams of Judaism. The non-Orthodox leaders contend that the responses to six of 16 questions from a recent survey commissioned by the Orthodox Union, a large, mainstream American group, prove that the Conservative and Reform movements have gained significant recognition and support among Israelis in the religious pluralism battle.