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From what I’ve read, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ZT”L didn’t attend Limmud, which is a festival started in the UK but popular among typically non Orthodox Ashkenazi communities (generally, although not exclusively from the diaspora). However Chief Rabbi Mirvis did attend, unlike R Sacks who listened to Haredi opposition.

I was curious, is there an issue with Limmud on either a Halachic or Hashkafic level? Limmud is a secular festival, but even haredim don’t generally have an issue with secular gatherings so long as they’re modest.

My question is, what should the approach of Orthodox Jews be to something like Limmud, is it better to simply avoid the otherwise secular/Masorti community in terms of being part of a non religious Jewish community? Beyond Hashkafa, are there halachic issues of Marit Ayin or Lifnei Iver with associating with these people? And if not, then why is the London Beth Din so adamantly opposed to it?

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    Some more details about what happens at limmud and the purpose of limmud might help. Alternatively since you have identified an organization that is easy to contact they can directly answer your question. At best why the London bes din opposes it by someone outside of the London bes din would be speculation
    – Dude
    Nov 10, 2023 at 0:13
  • I think the basis of the opposition is simply based on the fact that is is a "new thing".
    – The GRAPKE
    Nov 10, 2023 at 6:47
  • Something to consider: It's possible that there's a difference between a rabbi and posek attending and a non-rabbi or non-posek attending.
    – Harel13
    Nov 10, 2023 at 8:50
  • "Limmud is a secular festival, but even haredim don’t generally have an issue with secular gatherings so long as they’re modest." (1) Are Limmud festival gatherings modest? (2) Do you have examples of secular gatherings they didn't have an issue with (especially as opposed to not being in a position to offer an opinion one way or the other)?
    – Tamir Evan
    Nov 10, 2023 at 11:40

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An eloquent presentation of the argument is found here where it writes:

...Limmud is pluralist. Speakers from Orthodox, Masorti, Reform and other backgrounds are presented on an equal footing. Participants can attend whichever sessions they like. One can choose to listen to an Orthodox speaker giving traditional interpretations or to a Liberal denying essential principles of Orthodox Judaism and justifying practices forbidden by Orthodox halakha. The implication is that every one of the perspectives presented is equally valid. But for Orthodoxy they are not and cannot be. Orthodoxy recognises a range of different but acceptable views, but it cannot accept views outside that range as legitimate. As the Chief Rabbi wrote the L’eyla in 1990 ‘Either the Torah is the unmediated word of God or it is not. Either halachah commands every Jew or it does not. Either God speaks to us through history or He does not.’

To say that all views are equally valid is not just non-Orthodox, it is anti-Orthodox, it is a denial of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy does not and cannot accept that it is one option among many. It is the single authentic Jewish view (or range of views). As the Chief Rabbi wrote in 1990: ‘Orthodoxy stakes its being on the existence of some truth that transcends the relativities of man’. By giving an equal platform for all opinions Limmud effectively endorses this anti-Orthodox position. Pluralism is based on the assumption that there is no absolute truth, Orthodoxy makes just that claim, and it claims that Orthodoxy alone possesses that truth. Again the Chief Rabbi: ‘pluralism proceeds on the explicit or hidden premise that Orthodoxy is false. It could not be otherwise, for if Orthodoxy is true, pluralism would be false.’

The result creates an awkward dilemma...

We therefore find ourselves in a stalemate. If an Orthodox rabbi attends Limmud it appears as though he is diminishing authentic Judaism into just one of a range of legitimate options, a position that Limmud implicitly asserts but which is a denial of Orthodoxy, and in Orthodox terms is a denial of Torah itself. On the other hand, there are two and a half thousand Jews who want to learn Torah, and if all Orthodox speakers followed the logic I have set out, there would be no one to teach them. They would be forced to attend sessions which deny Torah and mitzvot as Orthodoxy understands them. Perhaps this is why the debate continues, because each side of the argument is so strong...

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  • It is worth noting that the Orthodox approach to Reform and other non-Orthodox approaches to Judaism in the UK is dramatically different to the US. In the UK, only about 14% of Jews are Reform, compared to something like half in the US, so the UK approach is to not give legitimacy to Reform as a valid alternative to Orthodoxy. That would probably be somewhat pointless to try in the US because of the vastly different demographics. Nov 10, 2023 at 8:41
  • @MosesSupposes - to be fair the Orthodox component is not that different, maybe a bit more than 14%. Close to 35% identify themselves as "Secular" so I don't think it is that far off the US model.
    – Dov
    Nov 10, 2023 at 8:49
  • Also you are discounting Liberal Judaism which stands separate to Reform Judaism in the UK. It is not really a thing in the US.
    – Dov
    Nov 10, 2023 at 8:52
  • TBH I'm not familiar with the difference between Lliberal, Conservative, Masorti and Reform. I'm Orthodox, and in the UK, most Orthodox people who I know tend to lump it all under "Reform" and not consider any of them to actually be proper Judaism (which is not to say that a lot of the members are not Jewish). That said, I'm Mancunian, and in Manchester, I think that the above groups have an even smaller proportional presence - I think that Manchester is almost entirely Orthodox, Traditional or Secular. Liberal is probably more of a London thing and only 6% of UK Jews. Nov 10, 2023 at 11:05
  • So I'm also Orthodox but based in London. Whilst I'm not so familiar with the inner workings of progressive Judaism etc I know that although Liberal Judaism align themselves ideologically with the Reform, they are more radical and probably close to the American reform model. So with the two combined they are equal to the Orthodox population...
    – Dov
    Nov 10, 2023 at 11:10

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