Rabbi Basil Herring has claimed in a newspaper interview that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein violated an unnamed rabbinic rule by entering a church and reciting a prayer to honor the inauguration of our 44th president.
We say that it is praiseworthy that Lookstein, a world renowned Orthodox rabbinic leader, was invited to participate in this event and laudable that he accepted and represented our community.
We recognize that a deeply-rooted historically-based reluctance exists within Orthodoxy to permit a Jew to participate in a Christian church service.
However there is an equally pervasive tradition in Orthodox rulings that encourages unfettered respect for a national leader, especially in a situation like this, the celebration of the inauguration of a new president.
We are certain that the learned Rabbi Lookstein weighed carefully the context and circumstances of his participation and deemed it permissible, and perhaps even obligitory, that he represent our community in the church event.
Rabbi Herring is way off base in his public criticism. Perhaps motivated by personal jealousy or perhaps driven by misplaced zealousness, Herring had no basis for using his office in the RCA to lash out in this unwarranted criticism of his colleague.
When asked about this by the press, if he could not endorse his colleague's participation, Rabbi Herring should have respectfully replied, "No Comment."
Orthodox group: Rabbi violated rules by joining National Prayer Service
By Jacob Berkman
NEW YORK (JTA) -- The main Modern Orthodox rabbinical association says a prominent member violated its rules by participating in the National Prayer Service.
A Rabbinical Council of America official told JTA that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the religious leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, broke the organization's rules by participating in the service Wednesday at the National Cathedral on the morning after Barack Obama's inauguration.
“The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Council of America, in accordance with Jewish law, is that participation in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited," the RCA said in a statement. "Any member of the RCA who attends such a service does so in contravention of this policy and should not be perceived as representing the organization in any capacity."
The RCA said that Lookstein’s participation was problematic both because the service was held in the sanctuary of a church, which Orthodox Jews are prohibited from entering, and because it was an interfaith prayer service, which the RCA discourages for fear that such participation could allow missionaries to legitimize their argument that Jews can indeed embrace Jesus... more