Some random articles I’ve collected over the last week or two:
- Black Book, Paul Verhoeven’s (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) new film about the Dutch Resistance during World War II, premieres today in limited release. An interfaith relationship is actually at the center of the story–although I doubt many readers would be able to relate to this particular romance between a tough-minded Jewish spy and a gentle Nazi officer. Judging from his previous films, that premise will probably come off as even more offensive on screen, which is to say, I am looking forward to seeing this movie. I don’t expect, however, to be in the slightest bit enlightened about the dynamics of real interfaith relationships.
- The ongoing fracas over conversion standards in Israel continues, according to The (New York) Jewish Week. The latest development is that the main pluralist conversion school has stopped sending converts to the official Orthodox conversion courts as a protests against the courts’ unreasonable standards. The head of the school, Benny Ish-Shalom, is calling for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to change the conversion system, but I’m guessing he has other issues on his mind at that moment (and given his political vulnerability, I doubt he’d be willing to take on the Orthodox establishment that runs the conversion courts). The loser, as it always seems to be in these disputes, is not the courts or the school, but potential converts.
- ADL’s national education director, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, recently gave a very interesting talk at the St. Agnes Spiritual Life Center in San Francisco. He talked about Jesus’ Jewish roots and how much of the Christian Bible is laced with details intended to resonate with Jews from the era, details that were lost on the rising Church, which was composed mostly of converted pagans. The rabbi even suggests that the notion of Jesus’ divinity in the Christian Bible is overblown, pointing to the example of a story of a woman in the Christian Bible who was “hemorrhaging blood for 12 years.” She stopped bleeding after touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. Jesus tells her that her faith has healed her. Later scholars took the touching of Jesus’ garment as a demonstration that Jesus saved her, but the rabbi suggests that the “hem” was actually Jesus’ tzit-tzit. And the text does not say that Jesus saved her, but that “her faith” saved her, her faith, not in Jesus, but in the God of the Jewish tradition.
- A strange new play about a romance between a terminally ill Jewish businesswoman and a black televangelist is playing at Urban Stages in Manhattan through May 6. Apostasy explores the differing Jewish and Christian conceptions of the afterlife as well as the potentially suspicious motives of the televangelist: Is he in love with the woman? Is he just trying to get her to give her money to his church? It also deals with the charismatic (read: sexual) power of true believers like the televangelist.
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