Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for Agudath Israel USA, wrote on May 30, 2001 on the Moment web site:

On Friday, I received a call from a (non-Orthodox) editor of a Jewish newspaper who called just to tell me how amazed he was at the contrast between the Epstein/Fraint pieces and the Shafran piece in Moment. The former, he said, were so snide and insulting, and the latter devoid of any personal criticism, much less insult. I would not rely on my own judgment regarding that, of course, but was heartened to hear my own impressions confirmed by an objective party. Perhaps you might want to read their pieces, and mine, again.

My reply:

Dear Rabbi Shafran, Quite frankly, I'm not concerned that you found those replies snide, if indeed they were. I'm not going to speak for either rabbi, whose replies AND TONE I agree with, so allow me just to give my own impressions. I found your article gratuitous, presumptuous and unconstructive, to say the least. Qualitatively, the article to me was similar to missionary materials I've read from Jews for Jesus and from Messianics.

How so?
Both you and they claim to have The Truth and desire to share the "good news" with us wayward sheep. The harsh tone that you have read from Rabbis Epstein and Fraint, and now from me, are reserved for missionaries of The Truth of whatever religion or denomination. What I found particularly galling, and ironic, is that you criticize us as an officer of an organization that remains hostile to Conservative Judaism, but that represents only a tiny percentage of American Jews. That's looks like a glass house to me. Despite the accomplishments (which I admire) of the Agudah and other Orthodox organizations, Orthodox Judaism still accounts for 6-11% of America's Jews (depending on which sample one uses).

You are not the first Orthodox Jew to criticize us in a major publication, and you won't be the last. As far as the Internet, such discussions/debates/flamewars have been taking place for years without you. I have first hand knowledge.

Another objection is that your article and stated aims smack of grandiosity. Yes, your article has created a lot of noise, just like the Union of Orthodox Rabbis pronunciamento of a couple of years ago. So what!

Let me share a true story back in my freshman homiletics class with the late Rabbi Simon Greenberg, z"l. That year, three senior students protested their having to deliver their required senior sermons at the official JTS Shabbat service, where the late Rabbi Dr. Saul Lieberman was the rav. Their protest was to deliver inflammatory sermons. They certainly caused discussion! At class, I opined that those sermons had served their purpose and got attention, to which Dr. Greenberg responded: "They would have received the same attention by streaking." IOW, there were more constructive ways for the students to have voiced their views.

The state of Conservative Judaism, warts and all, are widely available to the laity through media, including the Wertheimer reports. (Dr. Jack Wertheimer, an historian, is JTS provost.) They are being used in adult ed classes and have been cited in synagogue bulletins and elsewhere. Another widely circulated book used in adult ed classes (I once used it for a series of discussions at board meetings) by Rabbi Neil Gillman, _Conservative Judaism_, is frank about the problems faced by the movement, including the deficiencies in observance by congregants.

In short, please don't think that you contributed anything new to a new audience. You are, forgive me, simply not that important. (Neither, of course, am I.) .....

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