by R. Yitzchak Blau
Can Orthodox rabbis sit on the same rabbinic boards with non -Orthodox rabbis? What attitude should Orthodox Jews have to the Conservative rabbinate? These arguments continue to this day. In the 1960s, two prominent pulpit rabbis debated these questions on the pages of Tradition. Rabbi Shubert Spero was the Rav of the Young Israel of Cleveland and Rabbi Ralph Pelcovitz was the Rav of the White Shul in Far Rockaway.
In the Winter 1966 issue, R. Spero denies that participation by definition implies recognizing the equal legitimacy of other groups. Sitting in the United Nations does not imply endorsement of Communist regimes. He also cites sources against applying the laws of apikores to contemporary dissenters. Furthermore, he argues that the major fault line today is between religion and secularism and that the existence of other denominations keeps Jews closer to Torah.
In the Communications section of the Fall 1967 issue, R. Pelcovitz disagrees strongly. He contends that participation does imply recognition, that we should distinguish between Conservative and Reform laypeople and the rabbinate, and that the existence of other denominations keeps people distant from Orthodoxy. R. Spero responds in the same issue.
R. Spero’s original article: link (PDF)
The exchange between R. Pelcovitz and R. Spero: