Is Pope Francis Most Small-C Catholic Pontiff Ever?

Rabbis Could Follow Holy Father's Universalist Path

getty images

By Jeffrey K. Salkin

Published September 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Let’s start with the chief rabbis of Israel. “We, the chief rabbis of the state of Israel, believe in the primacy of halakha and we will neither ignore nor relativize it. However, we are prepared to say that the Orthodox rabbinate, has focused far too narrowly on issues like whether women can worship as equals at the Western Wall; or on “who is a Jew?”; or even on the punctiliousness of kashrut. We still care about those things. This has only succeeded in alienating huge swaths of the Jewish world and has focused untold hostility on traditional Judaism. We need to focus on far bigger issues, like the meaning of Torah in the world today, or on the ethics of war and occupation, or on how halakha speaks to the situation of foreign laborers. We are seeking a new kind of balance in Jewish life today.”

Now, let’s move to non-Orthodox rabbis, cantors and Jewish educators: “For far too long, we have allowed our institutions to become ‘bar mitzvah-centric.’ We have fostered a system where we expect Jewish kids to essentially learn prayers and Torah by rote, without spending nearly enough time discussing their meaning. We have concentrated on getting kids to ‘do the prayers,’ but not on praying. We will now have classes on kavannah and ‘awe management.’ We are seeking a new kind of balance in Jewish life today.”

Now, let’s imagine if this conversation could have happened thirty years ago. “We, the Jewish leaders of the United States, are committed to the centrality of the commandment to remember the Shoah. That commandment is emblazoned upon our hearts and scorched into our souls. But we note with some concern the proliferation of local Holocaust memorials and museums in many communities. With prophetic vision, we see the day when there will be a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the Mall in Washington, DC, to which people will flock. We humbly ask our generous philanthropists to create far more powerful and lasting memorials to the more than two million Jewish children who died in the Shoah by endowing Jewish education. Someday, there will be a program called “Birthright.” But we need a birthright program for Jewish education here, in our country. We are seeking a new kind of balance in Jewish life today.”

Yes, those conversations are a fantasy. With the exception of the Holocaust memorial conversation, they are actually happening, in small but powerful ways, in many places in the Jewish world today. But not as many as we need, and not as loudly as we need.

So, Holy Father, thanks for being our teacher. Thank you for reminding us, and people of all faiths, of the need to balance.

*Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is an author and the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Am in Bayonne, N.J. He blogs at the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and is the author of “Righteous Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible: Ancient Models for Sacred Relationships” (Jewish Lights).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.