Monday, March 21, 2011

Liberal Judaism Needs To Be More Assertive

Liberal Judaism, especially in Israel, needs to be more assertive. This is the gist of an article in Ha'aretz by Alex Sinclair, director of programs in Israel Education for the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Some of his main points are:
The pluralist agenda of the liberal Jewish movements, while admirable in principle, can sometimes lead us to be less vocal about why we differ from Orthodox Judaism, and why that difference is important.

Liberal Judaism makes a powerful claim, and the claim is that Orthodox Judaism is, at its core, wrong. ...

[One] reason that we allow the orthodox narrative to hold center stage is our own fear of Jewish disunity. We tread on eggshells for fear of saying that others’ opinions might be “wrong” or “false”. We nod our heads when we hear absurd and historically ridiculous statements spouted by orthodox friends, because we believe in everyone’s right to their own opinion, and because we want to be nice. We think it’s important to be united as a people, so we swallow our pride and allow the orthodox narrative to become the default Jewish position.

Ironically, it is Orthodox Judaism that is the main force leading to the destruction of the Jewish people’s unity. Liberal Jews are like, l’havdil, abused spouses. For decades, orthodox Jews have ignored our concerns, discriminated against our converts, insulted our rabbis, and used our money against us; yet we still smile weakly at them and cling to the hope that they’ll make nice. No. This is not about the unity of the Jewish people any more; it’s about the vision of the Jewish people. No longer can we allow that vision to be sacrificed on the altar of unity.

... pluralism, dialogue, and mutual learning must no longer be allowed to obscure the genuine disputes about history and ideology that separate us, and we liberal Jews must be more prepared to dispute the fundamentalist orthodox position ...

A new world Jewish movement is needed: a movement of Jews who are no longer prepared to remain quiet and cede Jewishness to a fundamentalist, incorrect orthodox narrative. This orthodox narrative must be confronted, challenged, refuted: vocally, diligently, persistently. May this be the first step.
You can read the full article here.


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