Friday, November 19, 2004

Galut and Geulah: An Open Response to Daniel Saras

I walk into Hillel this morning to find my friend Reb Mendel, the local Chabad Rabbi, reading The New York Jewish Week, looking physically hurt, as if someone had punched him in the stomach just a few minutes earlier.
--Boker tov, Reb Mendel, what's wrong? What happened?
--Read this.
He hands me a copy of the LETTERS section and I read the following:


Your editorial "Jewish Unity at Stake in Election (Oct. 29) is laughable. There is no Jewish unity and never has been.
I am a 52-year-old Orthodox Jew who was born and raised in Washington Heights and ahs since lived in Jewish communities in Manhattan, Queens, New Jersey, and Connecticut. I have been active in Jewish organization since my youth as a leader in Bnei Akiva. In all this time and all these places, I have yet to participate in any activity with Conservative or Reform Jews. I have never been to their synagouges and, best I can tell, they have never been to mine. I have never engaged socially with any of these people.
Nor do I want to. As an Orthodox Jew, I have conservativve values and an unshakeable love of Israel. These other groups are composed mainly of liberal Jews whose support for Israel is questionable. Indeed we Orthodox have far more in common with the Christian right than we do with Reform Jews, who seem to be Jews in name only.
Unity? More like a quiet civil war, but a war that we Orthodox are sure to win. The Reformists and many reform-minded Conservative Jews will intermarry right out of our religion in generations to come. I say good riddance.
Daniel Sara
Rego Park, NY

As I look up, Reb Mendel says to me,
--This, this is Galut.
We walk in silence together toward the Beit Midrash, I in my red hooded sweatshirt and he with his black hat and black coat and beautiful long beard. I think of the Conservative synagogue I grew up in, the Orthodox minyan I attended at my multi-denominational high school, my most recent shabbat when I prayed in one voice with Jews of nearly every major denomination and background.
--How was your week?
--I'm sorry, Reb Mendel, give me a moment. That was a hard letter to read. Let me take a deep breath.
--I apologize for making you read such a sad letter.
--No, Reb Mendel, thank you. I am glad I read it. Sometimes I forget the reasons for what I do.
We sit down together in the beit midrash, and open up two books of Talmud masechet Chagiga, and begin to learn together.


At 1:49 PM, Blogger deitybox said...

Beautiful and bittersweet post, Ari. You really have a remarkable way of highlighting the intensity of moments. That letter was extremely upsetting for you, me, Reb Mendel, and I hope, many more Jewish and non-Jewish people. Would you mind if I circulated it around to some of my friends? I think people should be made aware of the end result of some insidious phenomena in the Orthodox community, and what we really need to be focusing on as a people.

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Daniel Saras, who wrote the letter to the Jewish Week, and I wrote it in sadness, not anger. Read what I wrote, not what you want to read into it. What have we become if we care more about abortion than Israel? Explain how Reformism is Judaism? Is it enough to laugh at Seinfeld and eat bagels?

If so many of our people are disappointments to me, they should be even more disappointing to the Rebbi.
Do not shoot the messenger.


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