Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
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The “Orthodox Paradox” continues to provide fodder for bloggers and Jewish thinkers.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has written another insightful column on the issue, in response to the vociferous criticism he received for his first stab at defending Noah Feldman. The central problem, says Boteach, is that Jews must distinguish between “an immoral sin and an irreligious act”:
Further, Boteach argues:
Violating the taboo against intermarriage is violating one of those commandments–but then again, welcoming the stranger is another one of those commandments. Jew who reject people who violate the first commandment are themselves violating another commandment.
Esther Kustanowitz, who blogs and writes about Jewish single life from a fairly traditional perspective, raises another interesting point: where does Modern Orthodoxy’s rejection of taboo lifestyles end?
Which raises the question: at what point do the once-clear distinctions between Modern Orthodoxy and haredi Orthodoxy blur and become meaningless? If Modern Orthodoxy becomes more conservative in its response to break-away factions, when does it lose the qualifier “Modern”?
Simon Jacobson, an Orthodox writer at Algemeiner.com, writes that nobody has come up with a worthwhile response to Feldman’s dilemma. Either they reject Feldman entirely, reject Judaism entirely or are fuzzy-head reconcilers.
Meanwhile, on the critical end of the spectrum, Ralph M. Lieberman wrote an essay for the American Thinker that argues unconvincingly that the New York Times’ publication of Feldman’s essay showed a lapse in journalistic standards. It’s a first-person essay in the New York Times magazine and is never billed as a piece of impartial journalism. How does that violate any recognized journalistic standards?
A much more reasonable critique comes from Rabbi Avi Shafran, the eloquent director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. I don’t agree with a word he says–“intermarraige represents a deep betrayal” is one choice quote–but I wouldn’t expect anything different. He is a deeply committed traditional Jew, speaking for an organization that doesn’t even attempt to call itself “Modern Orthodox.” Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not argue that Jews should reconcile modernity and Torah; in their eyes, modernity is only acceptable when it does not intrude on Torah. It would be absurd to engage in a debate with people who rely on this fundamental principle why they should make a compromise with modern reality.
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