The moderate Rabbi Kaplan
The great question for Diaspora Judaism in our time has been how much to segregate and how much to assimilate. A Judaism that is unwilling to make bold, even counter-cultural, statements about the world and about society is a Judaism lacking in leadership. At the same time, a Judaism which sets the bar of integrity too high will lose the hearts and minds of its people. The trick is to find the balance and to moderate the two forces in our communal life.
It does not take much analysis to figure out which force of this tension keeps winning out in the non-Orthodox movements. David Weinfeld’s article (“Intermarrying rabbis: punchlines or prophets?” Nov.5) is yet another call to lower the religious bar further and accommodate rabbis married to non-Jewish spouses. Weinfeld resurrects the same old arguments, but should be cautious summoning the thought of Reconstructionist Judaism’s founder, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan.
Rabbi Kaplan was one of the most influential teachers at my alma mater, the Jewish Theological Seminary.
In particular, Rabbi Kaplan was a staunch opponent of intermarriage, referring to it as a breakdown of the basic covenant of Judaism and against the nature of being Jewish as God intended. No doubt he would be appalled at the assimilationist tendencies in all of the liberal movements as of late. He did want an evolving religious civilization, but not an acquiescing one.
Today the call must be to re-examine and reinforce our religious principles and, in particular, to pay attention to those customs and traditions that sustain Jewish preservation, and not those that threaten it. We need to make room in our hearts to accept notions that may be controversial, but that are essential to the richness and depth of our tradition. Let’s embrace the conflicts and tensions of Jewish living before we seek to redefine it. I have no doubt that about this, Rabbi Kaplan would be in complete agreement.
Rabbi Jarrod Grover
MPs and Jewish interests
I hope readers are not misled into thinking that just because an MP has a Jewish background, or Jewish mother, or goes to shul on Yom Kippur, or whatever it is that defines a Jew these days, that the MP will effectively represent Jewish interests in Parliament (“Six Jewish MPs head to Ottawa,” Nov. 12). It is nice to read about the backgrounds of these individuals, but there is nothing there that guarantees Jewish, or Canadian interests for that matter, will be served effectively. The proof is in the actions and activities of these people and the governing Liberal party.
It should be noted that Peter Kent, who represents Thornhill, the largest Jewish constituency in the country and is not Jewish, and Stephen Harper’s Conservative party by and large, represented Jewish interests quite well during their term in office. I am sure that Kent will continue to do so, even though the Conservatives no longer form the government. Conversely, Mark Adler, a Conservative who is Jewish, did not serve Jewish interests very well with his antics, proclaiming his need for a photo-op during Harper’s visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was, rightfully, not re-elected.
The new Parliament hasn’t convened yet, but we will have to wait and see what unfolds.