From the Jewish news media:
For US Jewish leaders, the major problems are indifference and assimilation, while the solutions are early engagement and education – about Judaism and Israel.
That is very true.
However, most of the Jews have studied Judaism and demonstrated for Israel since they were teenagers, and it have not made them more united, less indifferent or more engaged. My own experience and numerous discussions with rabbis convinced me that in order to strengthen Jewish unity we have to present Judaism differently. We may rich the true Jewish unity only if the fundamentals of Judaism and Israel are presented in the light of contemporary Jewish life. Unfortunately, most often that is not the case.
Most often. Judaism is presented as a set of principles developed in the course of Jewish history for Jewish life’s conditions in segregated areas where everything outside the segregated areas was hostile and even murderous to the Jews. In the contemporary American life, that is not the case anymore, and Judaism should be discussed as how the historic segregation-based Jewish principles could be transformed to be applicable to the life of Jews as the Chosen in Judeo-Christian Western civilization where the Jews are treated as equals. In order to do this, the rabbis have to initiate a dialogue with ordinary Jews, and that is very difficult for the rabbis since they were trained to teach the canons of their ordination institutions – not to listen and adjust.
Most often, Israel is discussed as an ultimate gathering place for all Jews. However, for the US Jewish majority this is not what they think should be done. Many among the US Jews feel that it is better to strengthen Israel as the Light for the Nations while living in the USA, and do it through strengthening spiritual Judeo-Christian fundamentals of our society and the Bible-guided role of the Jews as the Chosen. Unfortunately, we are involved in something opposite – we are promoting secularism and supporting the ban on Christian religious signs and prayers in public space.
Concerning Judaism, the most important Torah-guided unifying principle should be at the core of Jewish education – we all, Jews and non-Jews, are created different but equal in the image and likeness of God. The leftist and rightists, the liberals and conservatives, the whites and blacks, the Jews and Christians, the males and females … – all are created equal with different roles in an under-construction better world for everybody. However, that is not what most of our rabbis and public leaders were doing during the US presidential campaign – they were encouraging the future president to treat the citizens as groups of equal and unequal and make the “unequal” equal by government orders. That is not the role of a human government to decide who is equal and who is not and regulate it – our Creator creates us equal. There is a danger for the Jews to support the idea of splitting the people in different groups. If that is the case, the split could be justified for the Jews vs. the Non-Jews and that is the spiritual foundation for the anti-Semitism.
In the same Torah-guided way, the Orthodox Jews of all streams, the Reform and Conservative Jews as well as Secular Jews should be considered equal before God and the unity should be searched in different roles of different Jews as the Chosen in making our world a better place for everybody – Jews and non-Jews.
Concerning Israel, the unity should be searched not in imposing on Israel various ideological precepts on how to resolve Israeli-Arab confrontation or on Aliyah to Israel. Rather, the unity should be searched on helping Israel to become “the Light to the Nations” – to be the best in all areas affecting the human life such as science and technology, finance and economy, safety and security, religious and secular.
From the Jewish news media:
After Trump victory, rabbis call for unity and tolerance. Jewish spiritual leaders across US call on Jews to build bridges with their fellow citizens.
That is nice but should be done long ago. Unfortunately, in the course of the campaign many Jewish leaders, both religious and secular, were ruining the bridges with many fellow citizens.
The concept of Supreme Power over us the humans called God is vital for our human wellbeing. It is vital even for those who call themselves atheists. It is vital mainly not for the purpose of praying to God and asking for guidance and favors but most importantly for accepting God as the unchallenged source of our moral rules, which cannot be changed by us the humans.
That is why it is difficult for me to understand the reason for an orthodox rabbi Donniel Hartman to dethrone God from the first to the second place in Judaism.
From the news media:
Donniel Hartman, the head of an orthodox educational powerhouse, Shalom Hartman Institute, argues that the great monotheistic religions are fatally flawed — by an obsessive focus on God that overwhelms what should be our prime imperative, to live decent, moral lives.
Donniel Hartman insists his resonant call to put God second is not some superficial provocation. Rather, it is issued out of a conviction that “the more we put ethics first, the more I am a religious person” and the less that God is “a destructive force in our lives.”
The rabbi Hartman’s innovations are what indeed we need in Judaism and in other religions, for Jews and Gentiles, namely – to teach how to live decent, moral lives and how and why to put the ethics first. That is indeed necessary and long overdue – to bring back the true meaning of the duties of the Chosen, which are to build a better world for everybody with everybody – the world where the complete majority can live decent, moral lives along the lines of Torah/Bible guidance. However, to do all that we need to have God at the first place in our lives.
In order to decide whether we live decent, moral lives we have to define common basic characteristics of decency and morality. Those characteristics have to be alike for Jews and Christians of different spiritual streams from the ultra-Orthodox to the ultra-Atheists. In the Judeo-Christian world, without One God at the first place with His Torah/Bible-codified rules for decent, moral behavior, it is impossible to have decent, moral lives. The current rules for “decent, moral behavior” are different for many Jewish communities as well as for many Christian communities.
Here are just a few examples. Some believe in the decency of socialism-inspired redistribution of wealth with the “helping hand” of the government while the others support free-market capitalist system with the mitzvah/charity helping hands. Some believe in the absolute morality of “do not do to the others what I do not want to be done to me” while the others consider to be just the severe punishment of devilish people. Some believe that only a family of man-woman-children is decent and moral while the others do not see anything wrong with a gay family. Some believe the decency demands considering a person to be Jewish if he himself believe so while the others trust in a rabbi’s decision on the Jewishness.
Thus, what principles are decent and moral enough to be used for building a better world for everybody, even for everybody inside the Jewish nation? I do not see any other approach but – in the course of competitive spiritual and peaceful discussions – to find it in the guidance of God at the first place.
The history tried to do it without God as was done for example in Stalin’s Russia, in Hitler’s Germany and in Mao’s China and the result was millions and millions of murdered people.
From the news media:
An Israeli rabbinical court did not accept a conversion by an Orthodox rabbi who also helped Ivanka Trump become Jewish.
In the latest case exemplifying the tension between Israel’s rabbinate and Orthodox groups in the Diaspora, a religious court prevented the marriage of an Israeli man and an American woman, who converted under a well-respected New York rabbi, Haskel Lookstein.
And in an unusual twist, which has brought the case into the limelight, Lookstein is also the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump and officiated at her wedding to Jewish real-estate scion Jared Kushner, an advisor for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
That is one more example of bad moral rabbinical prescripts as the result of removing God from finding proper Torah/Bible-guided decisions.
At Mount Sinai, some human tribe had become Jewish since it decided to follow the God’s prescriptions on “decent, moral lives”. If somebody decides now to follow these prescriptions, this person is Jewish by God’s definition, and no human rabbinical court can change it.