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Liberal Jews Must Admit the Orthodox Narrative is False

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Dr Alex Sinclair, director of programs in Israel Education for the Jewish Theological Seminary, writing in Ha Aretz says:

Orthodox Judaism is, at its core, wrong. Orthodox Judaism is built around a narrative that contains a foundational error—“The Torah was written by God and given to Moses on Mount Sinai”. This statement, and the orthodox religious narrative that emerges from it, has been disproven by generations of Biblical scholars, archaeologists, sociologists of religion, and historians. These scholars have demonstrated “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in the late Rabbi Louis Jacobs’ words, that the traditional, orthodox understanding of Jewish history is false. The origins of Judaism are much more complicated than that.

Why, then, allow discredited beliefs to stay dominant in the Jewish world? Why not censure it when it is repeated in public without censure? Why stay silent before those who believe it, rather than expose the untenability of their position? He suggests three reasons why Jews stay silent, allowing falsehood to be freely repeated:

  1. The Orthodox narrative is the main rationale behind Israel’s mistaken settlement enterprise of the past 40 years—“God gave us this land”. Fundamentalist orthodox ideology is based on historically incorrect claims and doubtful assumptions about Jewish history. The fundamentalist narrative that the Jewish people’s historical connection with the land of Israel is divinely ordained, and the subsequent use of that divine narrative to justify political actions are wrong.
  2. The fear of Jewish disunity. Jews believe it important to be united, so allow orthodox beliefs to become the Jewish norm, being scared to say opinions are “wrong” or “false”, nodding assent to be nice rather than speaking the truth. In fact, Orthodox Judaism will destroy Jewish unity. Orthodox Jews ignore liberal Jews’ concerns, discriminate against their converts, insult their rabbis, and used their money against them—yet they still smile back at them a rictus smile.
  3. The concern about assimilation. The hope is that the false narrative might help keep Jews Jewish. The argument ought to be that Jewishness is a wonderful and enriching way to live life. Jews ought not to sacrifice truth for Jewish continuity.

Liberal Jews must be more prepared to dispute the fundamentalist orthodox position in dialogue with their orthodox friends. A movement of Jews is needed which is no longer prepared to remain quiet and cede Jewishness to a fundamentalist, incorrect orthodox narrative. They must take the first steps towards it.

Written by mikemagee

21 March, 2011 at 2:41 am

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