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June 18, 1993 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-06-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Stretching
Pluralism

At first glance, the United States Supreme
Court's decision last week to strike down a set
of laws in Hialeah, Fla., that outlawed animal
sacrifices would seem to have little relationship
to the world as most of us know it. But look deep-
er; it's really an example of religious pluralism
in action.
The High Court's ruling came in the case of
the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, a group
that traces its beliefs back some 4,000 years and
which has African and, more recently, West In-
dian roots. The religion is also known as San-
teria, and is followed by some Cuban-Americans,
among others.
When the church decided to open a branch in
Hialeah, horrified city officials hurriedly sought
to block that action by passing laws that have
now been ruled unconstitutional. 'The laws were
enacted by officials who did not understand,
failed to perceive, or those to ignore the fact that
their official actions violate the nation's essen-
tial commitment to religious freedom," the court
said.
Cruelty to animals is one thing, the court de-
termined, but writing laws that specifically tar-
get the unpopular ritual practices of a minority
religious group are not acceptable. If a jurisdic-
tion wishes to protect animals, the laws must
be written so as to apply equally to all, and with-
out stepping on anyone's religious beliefs.

Letters

It may be difficult for the rational Western
mind to accept the belief that God smiles fa-
vorably on the ritual sacrifice of animals. Yet
there are sincere religious people today in ad-
dition to Santerians who still engage in ritual
sacrifice, and there are also some Jews who look
forward to the restoration of such rites should
the Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
Moreover, there are those who argue that rit-
ual circumcision and the process by which an-
imals are slaughtered to render them kosher
are both cruel and archaic practices that should
be outlawed. If the courts were to uphold bans
on these essential rites, observant Jews would
virtually be prohibited from practicing Judaism.
This nation is filled with unpopular and un-
usual religious minorities that are difficult for
the mainstream to comprehend. But as Jewish
groups who supported the Santerians in this
case understood, passing laws against practices
that the majority disagrees with is a slippery
slope.
Given recent widespread immigration from
the Third World, it appears that this nation's
future will be one of even greater diversity than
we have known in the past. There will be many
more instances of having to accept the beliefs of
others that we may personally reject, least our
own beliefs someday be rejected.

Moving The Court
Toward The Middle

By nominating Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the
Supreme Court, Bill Clinton did not meet his
own high standard for a nominee: Will people
say, "Wow! That's an inspired choice for the
Supreme Court."?
Judge Ginsburg is too sedate, too centrist, too
schoolmarmish to elicit whoops and hollers. But
that is not necessarily to her disadvantage. In
fact, she may be just the right person at this time
for the Court — and for the badly battered Clin-
ton administration.
Ms. Ginsburg, who has sat on the D.C. Court
of Appeals since 1980, is right for the court be-
cause she may help steer it to a middle-of-the-
road course that it has lacked for several
decades. The high courts presided over by chief
justices Earl Warren and Warren Burger were
surprisingly moderate-to-liberal; the court now
presided over by William H. Rehnquist is de-
cidedly conservative, although three justices —
Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter and An-
thony M. Kennedy — often veer toward the mid-
dle.
Judge Ginsburg, who will be the first Jew to

join the court since Abe Fortas resigned in 1969,
is expected to join this trio. By doing so, she will
severely weaken the conservative juggernaut
that has compromised civil rights and liber-
ties and begun to let the mischievous genie of
religion out of the bag so it taints the once-im-
permeable separation of church and state.
A return to the middle is essential as a psy-
chic counterbalance to the rightist policies of the
Reagan-Bush years and the quasi-liberal poli-
cies of the Clinton years. ("Quasi-" because Mr.
Clinton seems to be defining himself anew al-
most everyday; "-liberal" because this is where
his political instincts reside.)
But most importantly for Bill Clinton, espe-
cially as he struggles to maintain his adminis-
tration's dedication to "inclusion, not exclusion,"
is that Ms. Ginsburg's nomination sends a mes-
sage to the women and the Jews and everyone
in this country who believes in a justice rooted
in fairness and equality and an ideology that
can embrace both.
And that is something worth exclaiming
"Wow!" about.

Dialogue
Is First Step

Rabbi Goldman's seemingly
prolific knowledge of the Catho-
lic Bible is certainly admirable
(June 11). It is, however, most
disturbing to see a God-fearing,
scholarly, Orthodox rabbi spew-
ing so much hatred. Instead of
encouraging tolerance and co-
operation between two reli-
gions, he preaches vengeance.
Rather than acknowledging
the progressive efforts of those
Christians who are brave
enough to stand up and admit
the fallacy of the teachings of
those Christian theologians
who encourage anti-Semitism;
rather than appreciating those
Christians who come forward
in friendship and brotherhood
and are willing to foster good
will in their own circles toward
Jews, who condemn the past
mistakes of the church, and
want to build bridges of good
will between Christians and
Jews, Rabbi Goldman dwells on
the wrongdoings of the past, ad-
vocates division and discour-
ages reconciliation.
It would behoove someone
who professes to be a clerical
leader to preach brotherhood
and understanding instead of
estrangement .. .
Yes, the Church has taught
anti-Semitism, but reaffirming
and focusing on past errors is
counter-productive. The most
effective way of overcoming big-
otry hatred is by teaching tol-
erance, and that seems to me is
the role of clergy on both sides.
No, dialogue is not all that's
needed to bring about better un-
derstanding between Christians
and Jews. That is, however, the
first constructive step. We need
to recognize our differences and
respect them and we need to
want to live in harmony with
each other. Dialogue is the way
to achieve that goal.

Alex Ehrmann
West Bloomfield

Interpreting
Unity, Diversity

I found Rabbi Irwin Groner's ar-
ticle May 21, "From Multipli-
city Emerges A Unity," to be
very disturbing and misleading.
In his commentary on the
Torah portion of the week, Par-

shat Bamidbar, Rabbi Groner
discusses the arrangement in
which the Israelites encamped
and journeyed from Egypt to
Canaan. The 12 tribes, each
marching under its own banner
and each distinguished from the
other, surrounded the ohel
moed, the sanctuary containing
the Ark of the Covenant.
Rabbi Groner maintains that
this structure reflected the dif-
ference that existed between
the tribes, the reason being be-
cause "Judaism acknowledges
the wide variety of interests, the
differences of the soul of people,
the latitude in the courses of life
one may choose. Yet, within this
multiplicity, there emerges a
unity."
Rabbi Groner deduces from
the distinct banners that sepa-
rated each tribe, that the Jew-
ish people exhibited diversity
yet remained united under the
"common attachment to the
central sanctuary." Rabbi,
Groner then goes on to make
correlation between the division
among the tribes in the desert
and the "divergent programs
and ideologies of the Reform,
Conservative and Orthodox
movements" today.
This is an erroneous com-
parison. According to Torah
teaching, the tribes were unit-
ed by one belief in the God-
given Torah, and they adhered
to all of its precepts .. .
While the tribes may have
displayed different banners,
they were unified in adhering
to the Torah, which requires us
as Jews to follow its command-
ments in totality. We may not
add nor may we detract from its
teachings. The Orthodox, Con-
servative and Reform branch-
es of Judaism, however, do not
adhere to the same Torah nor
do they share the same beliefs.
Orthodox Jews believe in and
accept the Torah from Sinai in
its entirety. We may have dif-
ferent views in interpreting the
commandments, some more le-
niently and some more strictly,
as was the case with the ancient
Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shamai.
We have the Chasidic move-
ments, the Agudah, the Mod-
ern Orthodox, etc., but we all
march under the same barmen(

Bracha Stein
Oak Park

LETTERS page 10

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