Interview with R. Benny Lau
From an interview with R. Benny Lau.
Rabbi Benjamin (Benny) Lau, a leading voice of modern Orthodoxy in Israel, believes in “evolution, not revolution.”
When it comes to human rights, women’s rights, treatment of animals and other issues not necessarily considered in the religious realm, Rabbi Lau – the 47-year-old director of the Center for Judaism and Society as well as the Institute for Social Justice, which he founded at Beit Morasha of Jerusalem – is at the forefront precisely because of his religious convictions, he said in a phone interview from Israel.
“It’s a big mistake in the Jewish world when rabbis feel their business is [only] the relationship between man and God,” he said. “It’s completely wrong. It’s a Jewish statement that to be a religious Jew means to care about your community and your state. We read the newspapers to see the real needs, and ask ourselves what the Torah has to say about them.””
A proponent of ethical kashrut before the issues at Agriprocessors – the kosher meat processor in Postville, Iowa, that faces charges for alleged child labour and immigration violations – became commonly known, Rabbi Lau said that a teudat kashrut (certificate of kashrut) for restaurants in Israel refers to food only.
“It’s not enough,” he said. “If we want to go in and have a coffee, I want to check if the manager in the restaurant gives his waiters complete rights. I want to check that people with disabilities have the ability to go inside that restaurant. How can I as a religious Jew sit in a restaurant that my friends cannot go in?”
He said about 200 restaurants in Israel have a certificate of ethical kashrut from an NGO called Maaglei Tzedek (Circles of Justice) in partnership with Beit Morasha.
Similarly, Rabbi Lau said, he is working with Maaglei Tzedek to look at ways in which synagogues and yeshivot can be more inclusive.
He believes that change “will take many years… but we can see a bit here, a bit there.
“We need to be part of the process.”
The full interview is here.