It’s reported by Leonard Baker that Mahatma Gandhi advised Rabbi Leo Baeck around 1938 that “All of the Jews of Germany at a given moment should commit suicide.” Gandhi thought the collective action would shock the conscience of the world. Gandhi clearly did not understand the Jewish nature. Baeck himself once commented that Judaism is the most life-affirming religion among world religions. With the possible exception of Masada, suicide is not the way Jews protest.
We may be entirely life affirming, as Baeck suggested, but we can be vicious with our opponents. It happened in the battles between the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim; it happened in the disputes between the Reformers and the traditionalists; and it is occurring again in Israel in the renewed fight over modernity and religious inclusion in Israel.
But, one might claim, the closer we get to making a difference, to threatening the establishment, the fiercer the fight will become.
I have little doubt that ultimately Israel will become an inclusive state among Jews. But when, and at what cost to North American and Israeli Jewry? The recent rhetoric over women’s status, the Kotel, gerut and mikvahs clearly demonstrates that the Haredi powers feel threatened by current events, most particularly at the Supreme Court. Now’s the time for action, but how to proceed is the real question.
Hiddush Chairperson, Rabbi Pam Frydman, suggests that we demonstrate the attitude we wish to receive through our own actions. It’s a different approach, so please let us know what you think.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
רוּ"חַ חִּדוּ"שׁ היא ארגון של רבנים וחזנים הפועל למימוש מלא של הבטחת מגילת העצמאות לחופש דת ושוויון. מימוש הבטחה זו חיוני לחיזוק זהותה של מדינת ישראל כמדינה יהודית ודמוקרטית ולהמשך השותפות עם העם היהודי לתפוצותיו.