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One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them Paperback – August 26, 2003
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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. I dare say that the right opponent could have given Reinman a much more difficult time. (I am not knowledgeable enough to express an opinion as to who "the right opponent" would be).
A side point: on non-theological, non-halachic issues, Reinman's position should not be considered "THE Orthodox position." For example, many Orthodox Jews are far more supportive of Israel and of Zionism than is Reinman (who seems to believe that a somewhat secular Israel is only slightly, if at all, better than no Israel at all).