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!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • 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.