Out of Context
“What Stirred the Hornet’s Nest” (April 27), J.J. Goldberg’s unreflective assault on my review of Peter Beinart’s book, is a perfect example of how responsible writing is not done.
A few examples will suffice. He says that I believe that Judaism “mandates a xenophobic rancor” against non-Jews, when, in fact, I specifically asked whether the tribal-orientation of Judaism’s classic texts might contribute to “illegitimate Jewish senses of supremacy.” What I wrote, then, was precisely the opposite of what Goldberg said that I said. And he knows it.
Goldberg also says that “Gordis even quotes approvingly the Talmud’s claim that ‘converts are as burdensome to [the people of] Israel as leprosy.’” But that, too, is completely false. I cite the phrase, but not approvingly. I simply note that Judaism’s classic sources are conflicted about converts, because there is something counterintuitive about people joining a tribe. Goldberg knows that my description of the phrase in the context of Jewish tradition is correct, and he knows that just days before my review of Beinart’s book I wrote a piece for the Times of Israel specifically advocating a warmer welcome of converts (“Embrace the Stranger in our Midst,” March 28, 2012). Here, too, Goldberg has simply ignored inconvenient facts.
Goldberg also resorts to despicable injections of irrelevant personal data into his column. He writes, after citing my reference to Kiddush, “Beinart, unlike Gordis, is Orthodox.” Those who know both Beinart and me know how absurd his characterization is, but worse than its absurdity is its utter irrelevance and, therefore, its inappropriateness to his defense of Beinart.
I would most definitely have expected better of The Forward.