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The Truth Lies in the Middle

How interestingly ironic that the April 13 editorial section includes Jane Eisner’s piece “Debating Spinoza, Again,” about the classic example in Jewish history of Jewish intolerance and the excommunication of the Portuguese Jewish philosopher residing in Amsterdam in the 16th century, and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s piece about Jewish pluralism presumably because Jews “are not a proselytizing people”( unlike the two other Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam) and that the “bonding sense of kinship” among Jews overrides the likes and dislikes of various denominations toward one another within Judaism.

In my opinion, I think the truth lies somewhere in between these extremes of intolerance and tolerance. The ultra-Orthodox are not the paradigms of Jewish tolerance toward other Jews such as Reform Jews, often accusing them of not being Jewish whatsoever. And often some in the Reform world dismiss the quaintness of the Orthodox as an anachronism of medieval vintage. And perhaps the intolerance shown toward Spinoza, for religious and historical reasons, should also be seen as the rare but notable exception to an expansive, tolerating pluralism among most in the Jewish community.

In summary, pluralism is a laudatory ideal and not a reflection of reality.

Alan S. Rosenbaum
Shaker Heights, Ohio


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