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August 07, 1987 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-07

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11; Will






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Learning To Appreciate
A Fellow Jew's Beliefs

Pluralism doesn't
come naturally.
It's a state that
has to be taught
and cultivated.


FRIDAY, AUG. 7, 1987


Special to The Jewish News


was raised in a yiddishist
Zionist household, in-
fluenced by Orthodox
grandparents, trained in a
yiddish schule, talmud torah,
Orthodox yeshiva and Con-
servative theological sem-
The Jewish thinkers who
have moulded my under-
standing of Judaism are as
varied as Y.L. Peretz, J.B.
Soleveitchik, Ahad Ha-am,
Israel Salanter, Martin
Buber, and Mordecai M. Kap-
lan. For me, pluralism is not
an ideology urging toleration
towards other approaches to
Jewish life outside my own
denominational circle.
Pluralism lives in me, an in-

ternal dialect, enabling me to
express a variety of Jewish
dispositions, moods and pre-
ferences, at different times,
differently accentuated. I am
drawn to structure and spon-
taneity, "shukling" and quiet
meditation, faith and doubt.
I am affiliated and identified
as a Conservative Jew, but
that definition barely
describes the larger
ecumenicity of my Jewish
self. Pluralism has enriched
my Jewishness and I would
transmit that advantage to
We are not born pluralists
any more than we are born
monotheists. Pluralism has to
be taught and experienced
from within our institutions
and denominational fidelities.
Pluralism has to be taught to

others and cultivated within
Particularly in these angry
days it is an imperative of
high moral order to learn how
to apply the dictum of "as-
sessing the other according to
his/her merits" (l'kaf zechut),
to the other's ideological and
institutional attachments. It
is important to learn how to
value not only the juridical

Can I preach and
teach another
approach or
Jewish theology
and observances

fact of one's born Jewishness
("A Jew is a Jew no matter his
transgression") but to value
his chosen form of Jewishness
according to its noblest in-
Such appreciation does not
entail our agreement, en-
dorsement or financial
support of our fellow Jew's
commitment. Santayana wrote
that "agreement is the sin-
cerest form of friendship." I

would qualify his adjective.
Agreement is merely the
easiest form of friendship.
Appreciation of the other
does not mean agreement,
but it does require respect for
his decision and respect
means the effort to under-
stand the fears and hopes
which surround his beliefs
and practices — especially his
fears, for fears reveal the
vulnerability of others.
Fears enable more empath-
ic access to a fellow Jew's for-
mally stated positions.
Understanding fears human-
izes the theory and practice
that frequently appear as
hardened obduracy. There is a
kinship in fear even when the
proposed antidotes set us
apart. What do they fear,
these "extremists," those
"middle roaders," those "fana-
tics," those "unbelievers"?
Some fear anomie, the root-
lessness of not belonging, and
find solace in structure, in
rigid adherence to authorities
and law. Others fear the
heavy hand of authoritarian-
ism, the weight that grinds
conscience to the dust, and
are wary of spokesmen who
mandate belief and practice in
God's name.

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