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One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them Hardcover – August 20, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Correction: In the April 29 review of Karen Volkman's Spar, the poet was incorrectly identified as having attended the University of Iowa's MFA program. Volkman is a graduate of Syracuse University's program.From January 21, 2000, to October 1, 2001, two learned and articulate rabbis exchanged 39 lengthy e-mail messages in a spirited but ultimately failed effort to find common ground between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. Through the exchange, they became friends who respected each other even though they firmly rejected each other's points of view. Addressing a number of fundamental issues, they eloquently explain and criticize their opinions in a lively and spirited debate. Both erudite rabbis extensively cite the Bible and Talmud as well as the writings of philosophers and rabbis to support their stances, exploring such issues as women's status, Zionism, homosexuality, assimilation and Israel. Neither interlocutor is swayed by the arguments of the other. For example, while Hirsch, the Reform rabbi, says he will not preside at a homosexual wedding, he argues for tolerance. Reinman, the Orthodox rabbi, quotes the biblical condemnation of homosexuality and asserts the necessity of trying to convert gay people to a straight lifestyle. Hirsch contends that Israel needs religious pluralism, while Reinman retorts that "religious struggle in Israel will only roil and muddy the waters." Readers who are privileged to observe this enlightening disputation will be impressed by the outstanding scholarship of these two rabbis and by their superb capacity to express their views with clarity and determination.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Rabbi Hirsch is executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union of Progressive Judaism, and Rabbi Reinman is an Orthodox theologian whose biblical commentaries and studies in Talmudic law are used in yeshivas. In their provocative but specialized work, they use a series of e-mails (reproduced chronologically) to debate the issues that divide the Jewish community. At the beginning, the authors are barely acquaintances, but nearly a year and a half later, they are friends despite the deep disagreements that form the basis of the volume. Argued herein are key issues, including the role of women in Judaism, matrilineal vs. patrilineal descent in determining who is a Jew, the basic tenets of Judaism, and the role of modern scholarship. Informed Jewish and non-Jewish readers will appreciate the lucidly presented arguments and the engaging personal details, though some will find parts ponderous. This book would seem to have appeal, as few other popular titles articulately set forth the debate between these contrasting viewpoints. Still, it will challenge beginners, who will be better served by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things To Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History. This book is most appropriate for most medium and larger libraries serving a diverse clientele. Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1 edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805241914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805241914
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,576,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book was apparently supposed to be a debate between an Orthodox rabbi and a Reform rabbi. Although this book was certainly easy to read, it didn't quite live up to its promise, and here's why: only one side was debating the most important issues. The Orthodox rabbi (Reinman) was simply a better debater, because rather than being enmeshed in trivia, he consistently focused on the most important theological issues separating Orthodox from Reform, such as the divine authorship (or lack thereof) of the Torah and the divine role in post-Biblical Jewish law.
By contrast, the Reform rabbi (Hirsch) gave these issues short shrift, focusing to a much greater extent on the intracacies of Israeli politics and other matters that I (and Reinman) consider relatively trivial. For example, after Reinman spent six pages trying to debunk the idea that the Torah was written by multiple authors, Hirsch responds in a paragraph or two (p. 245). Reinman wrote the perfect response to Hirsch's discussion of the obnoxious behavior of some of Israel's Orthodox politicians: "I do not know much about what goes on in Israeli politics, nor do I care to find out. Spare me." ((p. 300).
It as almost as if Hirsch and Reinman were trying to prove entirely separate points: while Reinman tries to persuade us that we should all be Orthodox, Hirsch tries to persuade us that some Orthodox Jews don't live up to their ideals and others aren't particularly good citizens. As one or two other reviewers indicated, someone who read this book with minimal knowledge would certainly be swayed towards the Orthodox point of view, precisely because Reinman focuses on the key theological issues and Hirsch doesn't.
Does this mean Reinman is right? No, only that he was virtually unopposed on some issues.
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Format: Hardcover
I am your typical Jewish guy from New Jersey with the typical Sunday school education. I Moved out to Memphis with my girlfriend to get away from the inner city traffic. I always considered myself Reform since it is the least radical form of Judaism. So, my girlfriend's mother sends us this book that seemingly has everyone including countless newspapers debating titled, "One People Two Worlds". For no reason other then boredom, I became deeply engaged. At first, I found myself consistently agreeing with Rabbi Hirsh. I thought the other Rabbi [Reinman] was just a right wing fundamentalist with outdated logic and beliefs. At some point while I was reading the book and yelling obscenities directed towards Rabbi Reinman as to why he thinks he knows it all, my girlfriend challenged me saying, that I was being intellectually dishonest by always agreeing with the side that was more inline with my beliefs. She suggested that I play devils advocate and should try to establish a case for the Orthodox point of view. To my amazement, not only did my arguments sound reasonable, I started questioning Rabbi Hirsh's points. To make a long story short, after reading the majority of this book at least six times, we both agreed that we would like to learn more about orthodox Judaism. So, after researching this endeavor, we decided to go study at Aish Hatorah in Israel and discover the real meaning of Judaism. The one thing that really irked me is how Rabbi Hirsh can use one or two examples of the Talmud to strengthen his argument for the Reform point of view while at the same time rejecting the rest of the Talmud. I found this book intellectually challenging and if read with an open mind, It can really take you places (I can save you a spot next to me at Aish). Thank You Rabbi Reinman for the gift of life.
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Format: Paperback
This is a good start towards unraveling the debate between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. Special clarity is given to many of the fundamental aspects of both. For instance from the beginning we see these two men, one in his traditional attire and the other in his modern dress. Most important and interesting is the variety of subjects touched upon and the many citations from the Talmud and Maimonadies among others. This is an interesting read dealing a with a rarely addressed issue, namely the major disputation betweens to two extremes of Judaism. The reform position vis-à-vis womens status and rationalizing the refusal to adhere to some old traditions is explicated here. Evident here is also the very scholarly nature of orthodox Judaism, and it is a shame the Reform Rabbi was not better versed because he is clearly demolished in many of the arguments and appears to shy away from directly confronting Reinmans points.
The great failing here is that it is not entirely topical, the reading gets bogged down in places and there is little to interest the reader and keep the reader involved. Its interesting that the entire text is presented in letter form, but this also leaves much to be desired. The men were not overly fastidious in their organization and theirfore the book begins to break down. A good start and a good idea but the book needs some work. Really whats needed is a book written by both a reform, conservative and orthodox rabbi explaining the key differences in their practices and adherences.
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