web analytics
July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


Atheism vs. Judaism

Atheist Birthright Founder and Rabbi Buchwald to Do Battle

Jewish Outreach founder Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald and Birthright’s co-founder, self-declared atheist Michael Steinhardt have agreed “to wrestle out” their beliefs in a debate.

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald (L.) and Mr. Michael Steinhardt will wrestle this week.

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald (L.) and Mr. Michael Steinhardt will wrestle this week.
Photo Credit: Yori Yanover

The “Mother of All Debates” will take place next Tuesday at the National Jewish Outreach Program’s  (NJOP) 25th anniversary dinner next Tuesday at New York’s St. Regis Hotel.

The debate, which features the question of the future of Jewish continuity, will be moderated by renowned lecturer, author and thinker Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

“We have agreed to disagree on stage, in public… which may be explosive!” said Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald.

“We do not see eye to eye on many issues, but we both have a deep, unshakable belief in and commitment to the future of Jewish continuity. It will be equal parts honor and thrill to share the spotlight with Mr. (Michael) Steinhardt,” he said.

The debaters will address issues ranging from the efficacy of modern-day programs intended to engage Jews, such as Steinhardt’s Birthright and Rabbi Buchwald’s Shabbat Across America, to how the American Jewish community will look 50 years from now.

The audience is restricted to “invitation only” and will include both supporters of Steinhardt and Jewish Outreach and local Jewish community leaders.

“It was with great urgency that we founded NJOP 25 years ago,” Buchwald stated. “The entire unaffiliated American Jewish community was at risk of vanishing. Thank God, we have reached many of them, but the challenges we still face are daunting.“

He established NJOP in 1987 in response to the spiraling losses of Jews from Jewish life due to assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge.

NJOP sponsors Shabbat Across America/Canada and the Read Hebrew America/Canada campaigns, establishes “Beginners Services” and offers the Turn Friday Night Into Shabbat, Passover Across America and Sukkot Across America programs, Holiday Workshops, as well as free “Crash Courses” in Hebrew Reading, Basic Judaism and Jewish History.

Rabbi Buchwald was a student of Rabbi Dr. JosephB. Soloveitchik at Yeshiva University, where he was ordained, and he served from 1973 for 15 years as the Director of Education at Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York.

Newsweek has listed him as on of America’s “top 50 rabbis” the last three years.

Steinhardt made a fortune as a hedge fund manager, financier, investor and newspaper publisher, and he is a philanthropist to Jewish causes.

He has been critical of non-Orthodox Jewish life and has charged that the Reform Judaism and Conservative movements have done “a poor job under-educating our next generations” by failing to distinguish Jewish values from Christian values.

Steinhardt also has asserted that that educators spend too much energy and time on the Holocaust to raise the flag of anti-Semitism in the United States, where he thinks is much less than believed.

The emphasis on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism detracts “from our ability to think about the Jewish future – because it’s hard to be focused intensively on the Holocaust and, at the same time, to think about what we want to accomplish and what we want to be in the 21st Century,” he said in an interview with Shalom TV three years ago.

Steinhardt has defined himself as an atheist but supports Jewish cultural identity.

The Diaspora “is a moribund Jewish world, continuously losing its young people, whose tzedakah has dramatically changed where only a small fraction of total philanthropy is going to Jewish causes; interest in Israel is declining; the number of American Jews going to Israel is not growing; where the culmination of Jewish life seems to be (for the young person) the bar mitzvah – and from there it is all downhill,” he added in the interview.

He founded the Birthright program, which sends young people to Israel for their first visit. Steinhardt has called Israel a “substitute for religion” but mourns the atmosphere in Israel, claiming it often is “easier to be a Zionist in Manhattan that in Tel Aviv.

However, he added, “I could forgive almost anything vis-à-vis Israel. Israel was and still is my Jewish miracle!”

His autobiography, “No Bull: My Life in and out of Markets,” notes his father, Sol Frank Steinhardt, who also was known as “Red McGee.”

“Red” Steinhardt was convicted in 1958 on two counts of buying and selling stolen jewelry, and was sentenced to serve two 5-to-10 year terms.

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Atheist Birthright Founder and Rabbi Buchwald to Do Battle”

  1. Josh Karpf says:

    Steinhardt's promotion of religiosity — including bribing, with free trips to zionist Israel, young people to practice Judaism — is anything but skeptical or secular. How is he more good for atheists than Clarence Thomas is for people of color?

  2. Dan Silagi says:

    Both Birthright and Shabbat Across America have the same ultimate goal, whether or not explicitly stated: To eliminate intermarriage. On the other hand, the best argument in favor of intermarriage is a former co-worker of Josh Karpf's employer; in fact, he co-founded the company. The products of his marrying out are legendary; one especially.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Cong. Juan Vargas (D-CA-51)
Second Democrat in Congress Announces Rejection of Iran Deal
Latest News Stories
Cong. Juan Vargas (D-CA-51)

California Democratic Congressman will vote against Iran deal because it fails to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.

PUG Meeting

Hamas said that the unity government’s reshuffle was “unconstitutional and outside consensus.”

Ravensburg Marienplatz31 Stolpersteine Landauer

Jewish community leaders argued these “stolpersteine” — German for stumbling blocks — were an inappropriate form of remembrance because people would step on them.

Stabbing at Gay Parade

The stabber is an ultra-Orthodox man who had stabbed three marchers at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem 10 years ago.

NGO-Monitor’s questions raises questions about AI’s professionalism and credibility…

Tel Aviv’s talent resources were ranked 3rd in the world — behind 2nd place Moscow and 1st place Silicon Valley.

The Prime Minister said that the procedures for inspections are “full of holes.”

“The deal before us now is simply too dangerous for the American people.”

Rabbis will appeal to Congressmen, especially the Jews, immediately before the Rosh HaShanah New Year.

A massive heat wave is expected to last throughout most of next week, if not longer.

Israel president Ruby Rivlin visits an IDF naval base in Haifa on July 28, 2015.

Growing opposition to the nuclear agreement could break the back of “uncertain” Democrats in Congress.

Canada is buying Israeli Iron Dome radar that is able to detect rockets, artillery and mortars at long ranges, and can simultaneously engage a large number of targets. Ottawa’s Dept. of National Defense awarded the contract to ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI), and Rheinmetall-Canada. The radar system offers exceptional detection […]

Dore Gold pointed out to American Jewish Leaders that Israel and Sunni Muslims agree on Iran.

Turkey paradoxically accuses the outlawed Kurdish PKK terror group of collaborating with ISIS.

Israeli military medics rescued a Palestinian Authority Arab girl in Hebron on Thursday.

More Articles from Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu
Netanyahu displaying the 3 stages of Iran's nuclear program at the U.N. Thursday.

The Prime Minister said that the procedures for inspections are “full of holes.”

Queens. New York City Rep. Grace Meng.

“The deal before us now is simply too dangerous for the American people.”

Rabbis will appeal to Congressmen, especially the Jews, immediately before the Rosh HaShanah New Year.

A massive heat wave is expected to last throughout most of next week, if not longer.

Growing opposition to the nuclear agreement could break the back of “uncertain” Democrats in Congress.

Dore Gold pointed out to American Jewish Leaders that Israel and Sunni Muslims agree on Iran.

The Prime Minister approved construction of the homes after the High Court ordered demolitions of homes under construction.

The White House said Pollard’s serious crimes’ preclude his being allowed to travel abroad.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/atheist-birthright-founder-and-rabbi-buchwald-to-do-battle/2013/01/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: