24 February 2011

Doing Our Work Unimpeded by Ignorance

In the ever satisfying thrill-a-click world of digital media, we are forever tempted to pop off temperamental judgments of political or ideological opponents.  It's a whole new form of passive aggressive behavior, this hiding behind keyboards, issuing opinions, but effectively doing nothing.

In the Jewish community where I work, there is no shortage of opinions and they get aired with more regularity than a consistent weekly washing.  We do our laundry every day.  But there are some basic rules of engagement that we value--like even if you disagree with someone, don't impugn a whole group along the way.  It seems there are always exceptions to any rhetorical rule one may follow and if my own life experience bears proof of this, it's often the exception that leads the way toward a greater and deeper understanding of the evolving selves we are always in the process of becoming.

I disagree with the political strategies of the right-wing settler movement in Israel but am interested in what their spiritual world-view happens to be because there is something for me to learn about their faith.  Equally here in the United States, I disagree with the political world-view of the right-wing Evangelical movement on certain core American principles, but nonetheless deeply admire their engagement with faith and community.  I admire the traditional formality of a Catholic Mass but am confounded by Vatican politics; I admire the personal relationship that Christian friends have with their Jesus while knowing I could never grasp the notion of a man as God.

Inside the Jewish community, I aspire to pray with as much regularity and fervor as I see among Orthodox friends; send our daughters to a Conservative movement camp; and know that I don't do nearly as much as my other Reform colleagues to heal the world through the spiritual work of Tikkun Olam.  That we Jews are as *plural* in our identity as we actually have come to be is one of the many prophetic realizations of Frederick Jackson Turner's theory of a new American frontier.  This continent effects us in the deepest of ways.

Well into the Twenty-first century, Orthodox Jews are working for fair wages; the Conservative movement is ordaining gays and lesbians; and Reform Jews are putting on tefilin.  These are the most welcome of developments.  And they are also no longer the exception but the result of an appropriate melding of aspirations into a plural and tolerant community that understands, always, that there is more that unites us than divides us.

With all this in mind I read Jonathan Mark's full-frontal attack on Reform Judaism in, of all places, a Jewish communal publication that is meant to represent the voice of the Jewish community of New York.  Weird stuff.  The tone is more like that of an angry letter to the editor than a reasoned column by a paid staffer of the Jewish Week.  And the wild generalizations are so off the mark that they hardly bear rebuttal.

So Reform Rabbi David Einhorn's being driven from Baltimore for his abolitionist views is worse than radical Islam?  So Reform rabbis activism in the passage of American labor laws at the turn of the 20th century is worse than radical Islam?  So Reform rabbis support for the creation of Hebrew University and the building up the Jewish state is worse than radical Islam?  So Reform rabbis working for better race relations in the establishment of the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress is worse than radical Islam?  So Reform rabbis getting jailed alongside other religious and civil rights leaders so that all American citizens can be free is worse than radical Islam?  So Ruth Messinger's work on behalf of victims of genocide and totalitarian regimes across the globe is worse than radical Islam?  So Reform rabbis insistence on equal rights for women and gays and lesbians in American Jewish leadership is worse than radical Islam?  So countless Reform rabbis who work in hospice care, labor as chaplains, staff day care and after-school programs, push their congregants to a deeper relationship to Torah, Worhship and Deeds of Lovingkindness are worse than radical Islam?

Jonathan Mark's claims are laughable.  And I don't know a single Jewish leader who is concerned with what he thinks.  We go about doing our work unimpeded by such ignorance.

The greater concern is why the editors of the Jewish Week even allowed it to be published.


Kung Fu Jew 18 said...

Jonathan Mark is NYJW's throw-out to the right-wing base that buys their paper. Remember how conservative the average NY Jewish reader is, then remember that half of them are more conservative than that.

Jokes aside, I believe they have removed his post. The link is broken and the post isn't listed anymore.

MKR said...

I clicked on the link that you provide for your reference to a piece by Jonathan Mark but got an "Access denied" page. The piece turned up in a Google search but the Google link yielded the same result. Is this piece still on the Jewish Times? I am curious about what this Mark character said.

MKR said...

Jonathan Mark's blog post is no longer on the Web site of The Jewish Weekly but Google's cached version of it can be viewed here. To my mind, the foulest part of Mark's post is its concluding two paragraphs:

Beck's a better man than George Soros, and he's a better Jew, too. If something bad, God forbid, ever happened to Israel, I'm convinced it would bother Beck more. One guy cares about me and the two countries I love. One guy doesn't.

I don't like it when someone who cares about us so much is hated, is laughed at, because his caring is imperfect.

Beck is a "better Jew" than George Soros? There is so much wrong with that statement, I don't know where to begin.