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My point is that for most Americans, actions are far more important than theology. They really don’t care what other people believe, as long as they act appropriately. If they are good, caring citizens, their beliefs – and claims of specialness in the eyes of the Lord – are just not so important.
Jews should listen up. Be a good neighbor, and you can sing a three-part harmonic ode to R. Yehuda Halevi’s special Jewish soul and most non-Jews will not hold it against you. Parts of certain chassidic communities are hardly the leaders of the pack in pushing for intergroup connection and acceptance, but tens of thousands of New Yorkers will remember them as the group that set up tables on 9/11 to provide drinks for the dazed and thirsty who fled across the bridge to Brooklyn.
There is one final argument. Part of what goes through our heads every time we encounter a Gemara that emphasizes some Jewish-gentile difference is that non-Jews will sense a slippery slope, at the base of which wait crusading Jews ready to behead all of them and impale their remains on sharpened Magen Davids.
We must confidently know ourselves – and convey to others – an overarching reality about traditional Jews: We are a legal community. Hostile attitudes can go only so far without hitting a firm halachic roadblock. No matter what animus some Jews might have for outsiders, they don’t murder, rape or maim. They cannot steal, lie or deceive without running afoul of clear-cut halachot.
Putting it all together, we have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. Putting aside those who have it in for us no matter what we do, the good folks of America will not find our life-style off-putting. I have been challenged several times by Jews who have rejected tradition. “Aren’t you ashamed to be part of system that says X, Y and Z about non-Jews? What if they find out?” They react with incredulity when I tell them that I discuss X, Y and Z openly with non-Jewish friends without embarrassment and without ill effect. But it is the truth.
Noah Feldman makes the mistake of so many others who believe that it is dangerous and unacceptable for Jews to act or believe differently from their fellow citizens. He is part of that large group of Jews who have felicitously been described as “proud to be ashamed Jews.”
It is a malady common to people who have little confidence in their own belief system. It has little to do with vast swaths of America, inhabited by people who are proud of their own beliefs and sympathetic to the strongly-held beliefs of others. If we remember that, we needn’t be silenced or embarrassed by the charges of the Noah Feldmans of our times.
About the Author: Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Sydney M Irmas adjunct chair, Jewish Law and Ethics, Loyola Law School.
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Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.
But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.
If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.
Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.
One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.
While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.
We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .
Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.
The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Israelis in Gaza border communities need to get out; who will help them?
The contrast between the mentality of Israel and the mentality of Hamas was never so loudly expressed as when the Arab killers became heroes and the Jewish killers became prisoners.
There is a threat today representing a new category of missionary:They call themselves “Hayovel.”
Just as we would never grant legitimacy to ISIS, we should not grant legitimacy to Hamas.
A monastery in Israel is desecrated, almost certainly by nationalist extremists.
The desecration was condemned by the prime minister and others in the government. Chief Rabbi Metzger called it a “heinous deed.” The Internal Security minister did not hesitate to use the word “terror” and announced the formation of a special police unit to combat it. Many people traveled to the monastery to personally apologize, including Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh, who took brush in hand to help scrub the offensive words from the walls.
The one hundred and thirty children and young adults share two things. They are all Jewish, and they all contend daily with serious and debilitating illness. Many of them have done so all of their lives. You would think spending time with them would provide the ultimate mussar ride for Elul, an in-your-face confrontation with your own mortality, and the need to be grateful to God for life itself and the parts of it we take for granted.
It doesn’t take very much to lose a neshamah.
The young woman was witty, charming, frum, and a Harvard Law School graduate. She was also black, and lived in an Orthodox neighborhood. One Purim, she was treated in a neighborhood shul to the sight of a young mother with a few children in tow. As her Purim get-up, the mother had chosen to adorn herself and her kids with blackface and thick lips. The connection to Purim was not clear.
“I don’t care what group you identify with, as long as you are ashamed of it.” There is much wisdom in the throwaway line with which Dennis Prager frequently challenges audiences to admit to the flaws of the groups with which they identify.
Ayatollahs in business suits is what Noah Feldman would have the world believe we all are. If the Orthodox were going to leave him out of his alma mater’s reunion picture just because he married out, then Noah Feldman was going to out the Orthodox.
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