The Dark Side of Jewish Pluralism
One of the benefits of being in my parents’ home is access to a whole range of print media to which I would otherwise never subscribe. On the flip side, it also means I encounter a whole range of political opinions that I would otherwise avoid like the plague. Case in point: the letters to the editor in this past week’s Canadian Jewish News, a weekly paper detailing local and regional items of interest to Jews as well as political commentary on Jewish issues worldwide.
The first letter in the August 5 edition is titled ‘Assault’ at the Kotel, and it offers a kol hakavod (well done, or congratulations) to “the Israeli authorities for arresting those who would trample all over our sacred laws and beliefs” – i.e. for arresting members of the Women of the Wall in Israel, who celebrate Rosh Chodesh with a monthly egalitarian Torah service at Robinson’s Arch along the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Read more on this here. The letter continues with a spiritual assault on the Reform movement, who apparently “decimated Orthodox Jewry in Germany” and “tamper[ed] with the Almighty’s decrees in their places of worship.” It doesn’t stop there.
The next letter in the section is titled "Homosexuality prohibited by Torah law," and it takes the local UJA Federation and major Canadian Jewish lobby organizations to task for daring to – gasp – “endorse the recent ‘gay pride parade’ in Toronto.” How could UJA have done better, you might ask? The letter’s author provides a suggestion: “by funding a sex reorientation program.”
I believe that Jews should be able to affiliate themselves with organizations that are aligned with their Jewish beliefs and practices. But letters like these ones really challenge my belief in Jewish pluralism. How do I practice as a feminist (straight) Jew in solidarity with queer Jews under the same religious umbrella as the men who wrote these letters? And how do our massive Jewish communal organizations negotiate the mission of serving Jewish communities when different Jews have such widely disparate notions of what it means to serve?