Posts Tagged 'Judaisms'

Impressions From Limmud

This year I was invited to speak at the Limmud Festival in Warwick, England, which took place December 22nd-26th. I wrote down my impressions in two articles published on the Avi Chai site (A, B), and are here translated and combined into one.

One of the most inspiring moments I experienced at the Limmud Festival this year was when I met two representatives from “Limmud Bulgaria”, that is, the Bulgarian version of the event. Limmud Bulgaria draws a far smaller crowd than Limmud England in Warwik (the central of these conventions), which is the one I took part in last month, and which served as home for a week to no less than twenty-six hundred people. In Bulgaria Limmud is attended by some seven hundred people, mostly Bulgarian Jews. If we recall the size of the Jewish population in Bulgaria, which stands at some six thousand people, we shall instantly see the magnitude of the occasion, and the centrality of Limmud to Bulgarian Jewry. More than ten percent of the congregation meets there, and one can easily deduce it’s the main event for the Jewish community in that country, one that shapes its life and agenda to a large degree.

‘Limmud Bulgaria’ is an extreme, but not unique example of the immense influence held by this project over Judaism outside Israel. Today there are no less than eighty Limmud events in thirty-eight countries, on six different continents, from New Zealand through India to South Africa; the model developed by British Jewry 33 years ago is probably its best and most successful export.

A-Hierarchical Pluralism

So what is the model? Broadly, meeting and studying together. The lectures can be about anything in the world: The bible, cooking, politics or sports. They of course touch upon the Jewish aspects of these topics, though the audience does include a few non-Jews who show an interest (my talk on neo-Hassidic trends among Breslov communities was attended by an Anglican priest). The largest denomination among the audience is Modern Orthodox, accounting for nearly 40% of the participants. The rest belong to non-Orthodox denominations or no denomination at all.

One of the main principals Limmud adheres to is its absolute pluralism. Anyone can have a voice at the gathering: Any person, any stream of thought, any idea. To further this, Limmud tries to fashion its common space as a-hierarchically as possible. The name tags distributed carry no titles, and the first name is much more noticeable than the last. Therefore, you meet Michael, Talia and Ephraim, not Prof. Michael Fishbein, Attorney Talia Sasson and the Chief Rabbi of the UK, Ephraim Mirvis. Everyone’s on the university campus, in the same dining halls and cafes. The object is to meet, get acquainted and mutually inspire.

Natan Sharansky speaking at a reception in Limmud this year. To his right Israeli MP Dov Lipman

The Chief Rabbi Arrives At Last

Speaking of the Chief Rabbi of the UK (actually the Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue, an Orthodox Jewish body created in 1870 by British Parliament and considered to be the representative group of UK Jews), this year he took part in Limmud for the first time, his predecessor Lord Jonathan Sacks having consistently avoided doing so. Sachs is actually rather liberal in his own views, but due to an old agreement he had with the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the UK, he refrained from the gathering, earning the ire of the more pluralist ends of British Jewry.

Matters reached the point where Ephraim Mirvis, the current Chief Rabbi, really had no choice in the matter. The body that elects the Chief Rabbi in the UK, which consists of rabbis and prominent congregation members (and not just rabbis never elected by the community, like the equivalent body in Israel) specifically made the election of any new Chief Rabbi contingent on his agreeing to attend Limmud. One can learn from that not only how UK Jews manage their rabbis (and not vice-versa), but also how significant this event has become. This significance extends beyond the variety and lack of hierarchy. Limmud is the global face of the same rise of interest in Jewish culture and religion we can witness in Israel. A 2011 study showed that for thousands of participants, Limmud was an inspiration to deepen and nurture their Jewish identity.

Me speaking about Neo-Hasidism - Photo: Ittay Flescher

Global Gathering

In front of every dining hall, and even every coffee and tea stand, Limmud places a hand-washing stand replete with alcoholic disinfectant solution. Sometimes there is a volunteer standing next to it to make sure that all those entering to eat did indeed wash their hands. The organizers are concerned not to let so many people from so many countries spread so many germs around.

And rightly so. It is actually in other (much happier) regards that mass infection takes place here. After my lectures I had a special feeling: Here are interested people from France, Argentina, New Orleans, Bulgaria. One lecture given here can have a great impact, when each listener carries its ideas back to his or her country.

Each participant also comes from a different world: Academics, rabbis, public officials, business people, youths, artists, each with their own frame of reference, each with their own set of peers to whom they can relay what they have heard and learned. I have never spoken before such an eclectic crowd, and have never felt how significant a single lecture can be.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow lecturing

Deep Currents

And yet, that is hardly the main purpose or greatest significance of the gathering. So what is the meaning of the Limmud phenomenon? Undoubtedly, several deep currents moving at this time underneath the cultural tectonic plates of Judaism converge to create this impressive event. First, I believe it is a deep need for community rising within Judaism outside of Israel. Small congregations in Eastern European countries or Australian cities or in the American hinterlands need the gathering in order to record hours of interaction. A social gathering allows them to once again feel part of a great people, to exchange ideas and re-examine viewpoints.

For the younger participants this is of course an opportunity to find a mate, and for the older ones a vital gateway to an objective I have heard mentioned time again throughout the festival: Networking. Jews are world-class experts in creating, managing and fund-raising for non-profit organizations, and the importance of connections for this purpose cannot be overstated. All these constitute an important bedrock for the production.

Another trend that helps create Limmud is an ecumenical outlook, which in the Jewish case can be termed ‘post-denominational’. In other words, the division into various schools loses some of its force. It exists, but not as an important element of identity, and therefore not as a factor that can cloud the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual inspiration. Apart from the well-publicized arrival of Britain’s new Chief Rabbi, I actually remember no talk of ‘denominations’ throughout the entire event.

Finally, and as an underlying cause of the previous item, we can point out the decline of Halakha as a significant factor in the lives of Jews nowadays. This is of course not new, but it is a growing trend, and one should note that it exists not much less among observant Jews than among those who do not observe the commandments anyway. In other words, even for Orthodox and (some) Conservative Jews, for whom Halakha is a significant part of their lives in terms of the time they spend each day on its nuances, it is not a significant part of their lives as an element of identity. Observing the commandments is not sustenance enough for them in order to fashion a meaningful Jewish life. They need a cultural-contemplative layer to complete their “Jewish life”, to charge it with sufficient vitality to flourish.

The diminishing of Halakha as an element of identity is what enables the mixture of denominations on the one hand, and on the other also what draws many observant Jews to enrich their lives with a ‘Judaism’ that is not connected to Halakha, but serves more as a source of cultural affluence. Unlike what one may find in Kabbalah and Hasidism (taking two previous attempts to soar above Halakha), the cultural offerings here do not bind themselves to the divine law, but play out in other cultural fields (intellectual, artistic, folklore-related, culinary).

Main loby, hours before the end of Warwik Limmud for this year

Judaism As Culture, The Holy Tongue Translated

Can such a “Judaism as culture” fashion a lasting space of private and community identity? I don’t know. Furthermore, aside from the detachment from Halakha, there is another detachment in Limmud: from Hebrew. Only when you hear a few lectures that touch upon textual dimensions of the tradition do you realize how difficult it is, i.e. this whole business of a Judaism that does not speak Hebrew. It is then that you understand the magnitude of the miracle that happened to the Jewish people and religion and culture in the revival of the Hebrew language in Israel. Only when you hear a lecture about the Talmud in English, where every word in every verse has to be translated, meaning displaced from its context and sterilized of its juiciness and multiple facets; only when you take part in a workshop on the kabbalah of Abulafia and instead of name combinations you combine ABC’s, only then do you truly realize how distant this Judaism is, how much it lives its life by proxy.

Of course, we can (and should) say that this is simply a different kind of Judaism, no less legitimate and significant. It has its advantages as well. And yet, the detachment from the language along with the detachment from Halakha does not leave much of a firm foundation on which to build a cultural-identity backbone.

I definitely don’t want to join in the pessimistic voices regarding Judaism outside of Israel (which always seem to me woven into a clumsy attempt to placate ourselves that although life in Israel is very hard there is no choice etc’). Culture is a complex, multi-dimensional organism that knows how to survive in difficult situations, and Jewish culture has already proved itself in this regard. There is also no doubt that Limmud is highly valuable to communities outside of Israel, and the sense of community it fosters is real. At the end of the day, this is its objective, and as of today it achieves it.

The question to be asked is whether all this pluralistic, many-faced richness will coalesce into a lasting Jewish existence. At present I think it’s too early to tell, but a we shall be able to note a positive sign when out of Limmud will come not only community, but idea’s fashioned into creation.

American Post-Judaism – on Shaul Magid’s New Book

Shaul Magid, American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society, Indiana University Press, 2013, 408 pp.

At the start of the 1960s, Leo Strauss held a series of lectures under the provocative title “Why We Remain Jews.” Strauss started out by discussing liberal democracy, which must not discriminate against a group of citizens, but cannot prevent private discrimination. The same rules that separate religion and state prevent the state from telling its citizens what to believe in – even if their beliefs are racist or anti-Semitic. Therefore, Strauss asserted that Jews have no choice but to remain Jews. Full assimilation is impossible, as general society is not ready to accept them.

A close examination of American society today isn’t needed in order to notice the extent of the changes that have occurred since Strauss held his lectures. Today, complete assimilation isn’t only possible – it is taking place full throttle. The state may not be imposing pluralism upon its citizen’s religious beliefs, but they are promoting an increasingly open and tolerant religiousness themselves. This is a Christianity and Judaism for which liberalism is a commandment, and harmony among religions is a sign of the coming redemption. It is also a more personal religious belief that draws meaning from the soul of the believer.

From the perspective of Christianity, the transition to liberal, private and inner devoutness is natural, and to a certain degree unavoidable (Immanuel Kant predicted it and saw it as the realization of God’s Kingdom). But for Judaism – as the religion of a “people” – an ethnic and nation-based religion that establishes its community through shared commandments, this transition is nothing short of a crisis. Separation from Halakha and the Jewish nation fundamentally changes Judaism. Add to that the ease of integration into American society, and you’ll get that “we told you so” look from Orthodox Jews who lament the decline of American Jewry. The Jews of America, who Strauss said would be forced to remain Jews due to discrimination, are now completely accepted. Therefore, many of them do not remain Jewish.

There is no doubt that American Jewry is at a crossroads. It is already an established fact that it has distanced itself from identifying with Zionism, the State of Israel and the memory of the Holocaust. For the younger generation of American Jews, Judaism is less an ethnic and tribal identity and more a cultural one that is less community orientated and more individualistic. Above all, it is open to change, and can be reinterpreted, adapted and updated. No less than 50 percent of married American Jews are married to non-Jews, and for years the non-Orthodox streams have been developing various programs and initiatives designed to embrace mixed partnerships.

Choice, not Blood

Shaul Magid’s new book sets out to address this situation and examine the ways in which Judaism will survive in the future. The book’s title includes the term “Post-Judaism,” but Magid (a professor of Modern Judaism and Religious Studies at Indiana University) doesn’t present this term in order to announce the end of Judaism, but as a means of illustrating the extent of the changes it is experiencing. Magid identifies the creation of postethnic Judaism – a type of Judaism that does not take its identity from a tribal dynasty or a shared history, but from cultural values: things that are universal and suitable for everyone. In contrast to the Orthodox school of thought on the subject, he does not see this trend as the end of Judaism as a religion, or the end of Judaism as a culture. As the above mentioned non-Orthodox streams do, Magid embraces and does not push away this trend of integration, and predicts it will have a productive future.

Not only is postethnic Judaism not rooted in tradition – it also removes itself from identifying with the historical Jewish nation. This is one step further than multiculturalism – which celebrated the different and the unique. Now, Magid says, young American Jews have no desire to proclaim how unique they are, and avoid discussing superiority like the plague. Hybridity has become a value, and the blurring of ethnic, gender and religious boundaries is a normative aspiration.

On the other hand, while many Jews simply forget Judaism, others are choosing to adhere to it – though not as a tribal origin but as cultural capital and an ethical framework. These Jews adopt traditional elements such as Torah study and observance of the Sabbath (not necessarily according to Orthodox Halakha) and set out to perform social acts of Tikkun Olam. They are proud of their religion and disseminate it as an idea, not as a bloodline.

An important characteristic of this type of Judaism is that it is entirely dependent upon individual choice. In other periods of history, this situation would have resulted in its rapid decline, as Judaism was not especially popular, occasionally not even among its adherents; it’s hard to believe that someone would have chosen to be a Jew. In the U.S. today, Judaism is a brand associated with style and chic – and is flourishing as a result. A recent survey found that in New York, five percent of those who identify themselves as being Jewish do not have a Jewish parent.

Another characteristic of this Judaism is its post-monotheism. According to Magid, postethnic Judaism has departed from monotheism in several areas. It does not believe in exclusivism; it does not believe in a covenant between one God and his chosen people; it does not see divinity as transcendental, but as immanent; and it does not feel obliged to carry out the laws of a monotheistic God out of fear of divine judgment. The theosophy of this Judaism is not monotheistic, but it is also not atheistic or humanistic. It is pantheistic.

Terra Incognita

We are witnessing, therefore, a creative, voluntary and spiritual stream of Judaism that does not have tribal affiliations, heed to rabbinical authority or commit to halakhic traditions. It has become more prominent due to the living conditions in the U.S. – and these are not about to change any time soon. This rapid development presents us with a type of Judaism that we are unable to define using the current tools at our disposal – as you can gather from the frequent use of the prefix “post.” However, Magid wants to delve deeper, and to outline the path it may take in the future. He finds the tools to do so using “Jewish Renewal” – the new-age, mystical movement of American Jewry. Although it is a small minority, it has made substantial contributions to the larger Jewish streams, and since the ’60s has been used as a kind of theological avant-garde that has an impact on the other streams (think of the contemporary impact of the works of Shlomo Carlebach have within the communities that once shunned him).

While for Orthodox Jews authentic Judaism is synonymous with tradition, Jewish Renewal offers authenticity as a personalized project that is dependent upon the spiritual journey of the individual. Since the ’60s, it has established communities that promote feminism and tolerance towards homosexuality, and also accept non-Jews into the fold. It offers a type of Judaism that is not halakhic, contentious or dogmatic. Magid argues that although it does not provide a complete answer to the postethnic situation, it has formulated a global, universal and especially pragmatic and flexible theology that can begin to tackle the situation. In Jewish Renewal (and especially in one of its main spiritual leaders, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi), Magid finds a new theological paradigm that can provide the necessary tools for the establishment of sustainable Judaism.

Magid comes to the realization that this Judaism is essentially post-rabbinical Judaism, that is, considerably different from the movement that developed after the destruction of the Second Temple, one which relies upon the commandments and the ethnic identity of Israel. In post-rabbinical and postethnic Judaism, the traditional strategies used to preserve internal Jewish cohesion are proved useless. They all rely on Halakha, and the tribal identification with the “nation of Israel.” In the current situation, Judaism is disconnected from its guiding principle – ethnic identification – and enters new territory. Thus America, which offers unlimited possibilities for its Jews, also presents them their biggest challenge.

Magid’s important book is a clear and realistic – albeit incomplete – preliminary analysis of Judaism in America; its achievements; and its crises. It provides a variety of perspectives on the creation of contemporary Jewish society in the U.S. (its attitude towards the Holocaust, Kabbalah, Christianity, the Baal Teshuva movement) that provide an accurate portrait of postethnic Judaism. Magid’s analysis is accompanied by a tentative prediction of the future – which he is optimistic about. He does not see the changes Judaism is undergoing as the beginning of the end – but the heralding of a new age; where it will become a cultural framework detached from blood ties.

Magid himself went through a process of Teshuva and became ultra-orthodox in his past. He later left the Orthodox stream and became one of the key activists and prominent scholars of the Jewish Renewal (it is a tradition amongst Jewish Renewal leaders to be at once spiritual seekers and academic researchers). There is no doubt that he has a great deal of knowledge about his field. He has a bold, innovative perspective, and his educated analysis is timely. However, the book is not edited as well as it could have been, and at times it reads like a collection of essays. And though his writing is clear and cogent, the work would have benefitted greatly from a concluding chapter and a summary of all his arguments.

In the summary of his chapter on the post-monotheistic changes, Magid emphasizes Judaism’s need to react to major changes that he surveyed: “For Judaism to grow and not simply reproduce itself in preparation for some final redemptive act to sweep it beyond history […] it must respond, and respond honestly, to a new era.” Magid makes quite a few attempts to do so in his book. It will not be the Divine Monotheistic Father who will decide of his attempts are successful.

Shaul Magid (photo: Barbara Krawcowicz)

Published in Haaretz, 5th of July 2013.

Calderon’s Speech and the Meaning of Secularization

The two weeks that have passed since Knesset Member Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) gave her maiden speech from the Knesset dais may just be sufficient time to assess its cultural impact – which is indeed significant. The speech, which was viewed on Youtube alone by nearly two hundred thousand people, famously included a Talmudic story which Calderon used to interpret current events, and also praise for the discipline of studying the Talmud, which Calderon claims has changed her life. Reactions to the Talmudic speech tended to two extremes: Some were most receptive to the inclusion of religious and traditional elements, and some were repulsed. Those repulsed also came in two flavors – ultra-orthodox speakers from the right, who viewed Calderon’s actions as an expropriation and a secularization of that which should remain sanctified, and secular-atheists from the left, who saw the speech as an expropriation of the secular legislature for the sake of a religious sermon.

In this sense, Calderon’s speech is an excellent case study in the boundaries of religious discourse in the Israeli public sphere. Having been delivered from the Knesset dais it is perforce representative. Like a Shiatsu artist applying precise touch to the pressure points of the body politic, the result of this touch are groans and growls, and each limb has its own distress. Thus while Ofri Ilani of the well known blog “Land of the Emorite” finds (Heb) proof in the speech that “Yesh Atid” is a party of evangelists, and Uri Misgav sees it as yet another manifestation of the secular public’s “routine bowing of the knee” before Religious Zionism, the editorial board of ultra-orthodox website “Kikar Hashabat” fears that it represents “a new enlightenment” and “an existential threat” to the Haredi public, and Rabbi Eliyahu Zeyni is most accurate in seeing Calderon’s speech as a secularization of the Talmud, and as a move intended to put an end to the hegemony of the “strident” orthodoxy.

Ruth Calderon on the Knesset dies

In order to explain why the religious sensitivity of the observant speakers correctly identified that which the short secular fuse on the free side failed to recognize, we must discuss the essence of secularization. It is well known that one of the central characteristics of the modern age is the secularization process, part of which is the separation of Church and State. Secularization means the transfer of power and authority from religious sources to secular ones. We all live in a world in which the monopoly on knowledge, political authority and even moral authority are no longer in the hands of religious entities. Authority over these important fields of the human condition have been shifted to science, to the nation-state, and to the individual conscience, among others.

This process was conceived during the Protestant Reformation, and it reached its Bar Mitzvah, so to speak, with the enlightenment, at the end of the 18th century. In the 19th century, while the process was in its cock-sure adolescence, some European intellectuals erred in thinking that what they were experiencing was part of a linear, deterministic process, at the end of which all of humanity will divest itself – privately as well as publicly – of the burden of religious faith. This was to bring about the certain end of religion, and the death and burial of God without so much as a Kadish. Thus was born the confusing conflation of secularization and atheism, that is to say the belief that stripping religion of public power necessarily means obliterating it as a private human element.

Today, as secularization stands before us as a ripe adult, we can easily see that this formulation is not correct. In the 1970’s it was already obvious that the rumors of the death of religion were somewhat premature. The secularization process is indeed underway at a brisk pace, but secularization does not in fact mean atheization, and religion is not obliterated. Instead, as a flexible and sophisticated organism, it adjusts to the new conditions. Proper understanding of the process of secularization was reinforced in the early 21st century, when terror acts by fundamentalist Muslim groups on the one hand emphasized that modern society is not at liberty to dismiss religion, and concurrently important and disparate western thinkers (Slavoj Zizek, Terry Eagleton, Charles Taylor, Jurgen Habermas) began to question the wisdom of ignoring traditional culture troves while attempting to create a healthy society.

To return to Calderon’s speech, it seems that some of the secular watchers on the wall are still interpreting traditional-religious words as “religion” in its all-encompassing and authoritarian sense. On the other hand, it is obvious to the religious-traditional side that “religion” (in its old sense) is a matter of authority, obedience and commitment. Therefore they understood full-well that Calderon’s free use of those words is not intended to force them on the Knesset and make it “religious” but, quite to the contrary, to remove those words from their religious context and render them into a tool in the hands of the secular Knesset.

Who’s authority?

The error of Calderon’s detractor is therefore ironic: Her speech serves, first and foremost, those who wish to separate Church and State. That is to say, in the Israeli case, between Jewish Orthodoxy and the State of Israel. It stems from a failure to distinguish religious words from religious discourse. The words Calderon used were indeed religious, but the discourse in which she spoke was secular. Calderon translated the Talmud into a civic-political language. She did not come in the name of Halakha, but in her own name and that of her own values, while maintaining the authority over the text’s meaning. Thus she not only secularized the Talmud, but also retook a cultural treasure that for too long has lain in the rhetorical arsenal of one side only. This did also not go unnoticed by her religious detractors. This also worries them quite a bit.

Once again, it is important to note: Secularization of the Talmud does not mean that there is no religious link between Calderon and the text. There may very well be (Calderon described her own family in that speech as “religious”, using the non-Hebrew word to imply a spiritual intensity). Secularization, as I have mentioned above, means withdrawing authority over the religious text (as well as the religious sentiment, religious history, religious aspirations and so on) from a hierarchical religious establishment to the life and free choice of the individual. One can, once again, wonder why such a shift is not warmly welcomed by members of the secular left.

Civilization Without Culture

And perhaps it is not that perplexing. Is it possible that what bothers the detractors of Calderon’s speech is that they do actually deeply understand the thrust of her act, meaning that they understand that Calderon signifies a renewed interest among a rather large part of the public in what is known as “The Jewish Book-Case”? Is it possible that they believe that Israeli culture must be built solely from humanist-liberal building blocks devoid of all long-time cultural heritage (a heritage which has contributed greatly to the emergence of humanism and liberalism)?

It is odd, for in the circles of those condemning Calderon’s use of religion we can find men and women who are (justly) horrified by the actions of China in Tibet, to wit, the destruction of Tibetan culture and its supplanting with the unique communo-capitalist amalgam of the current Chinese regime. That seems to them to be a disaster, yet they view erasing all Jewish culture and exchanging it for a liberal (and economically neo-liberal) public sphere devoid of any cultural or religious characteristics as a wise move. These are the same people who will (rightly) click their tongues upon visiting India and witnessing the hyper-globalization underway across the sub-continent, trampling its uniqueness along the way and turning t into another “free market”, whose pantheon is inhabited solely by shopping and profits. This they view as cultural devastation, but turning Israel into another McDonald’s franchise seems to them like a goal worth fighting for. These are the people who will (rightly) mourn the loss of the primitive Australian Aboriginal culture, the disintegration of the Native American nations, the wiping out of hunter-gatherer cultures in the Amazon. They will stridently insist on the right of each of these to maintain a distinct cultural identity and the preservation of their spiritual and intellectual treasures. But at the creation of a Jewish identity and preservation of this culture – which is, after all, quite ancient – they will evince distaste.

This is not only a strange case of discrimination, but also a blindness to the human and so simple need for a “home-grown” identity and culture (yes, the same need felt by the Aborigines – have not others the right to feel that way?). And this need is not only psychological, but also, mostly, social and communal. For without a traditional source of values we shall soon be left only with the instrumental utilitarianism of the free market. Without an ethical array that gives the things around us value, soon they will be left only with the price-tag. Yes, we have humanism and liberalism, and we are lucky to have them; truly; But unfortunately I don’t think that these alone provide a juicy enough ideological framework and a sufficiently coalesced identity to enable the existence of a thriving society in our times. Have you checked recently what happened to the dream of a secular-rational-liberal-universal society? Well, let me put it this way: There’s an app for that.

I have no patience for religious one-upmanship, and the notion that Judaism is some unique religion, higher or more true than other religions is despicable in my view. On the other hand, the notion that we should (or can) cast aside cultural treasures built over millennia is in my eyes no less despicable. Jewish tradition holds much wisdom, as well as much idiocy. Both its wisdom and its idiocy are voices I would like to hear, examine and make a decision regarding them. As long as there is no coercion, the enrichment of public discourse can only be a blessing.

The separation of Church and State must be fought for resolutely, and the struggle is beginning to bear fruit, but this struggle does not end with the erasure of any and all religious expressions from the public sphere. Should it end thus, the public sphere would remain poor and vapid, useful only as a portal to another branch of a global coffee chain, its kitchen staffed by labor migrants and its door guarded by a temp worker making minimum wage. Tradition’s voice must be another voice heard, another voice we can choose to follow. This is precisely why it would be disastrous for this voice to remain heard only from the mouths of rabbis, and doubly so from rabbis such as Ovadiah Yosef, Dov Lior or Shmuel Eliyahu. In her speech, Calderon has contributed to the creation of a new traditional-modern voice, a secular-feminine counterweight to those who until recently held the monopoly on the Talmud. Calderon has made a fine contribution to the breaking of the old molds, and surely did not imagine that she of all people would be pressured so quickly back into them.

First published on Avi Chai site, 27.2.13. Translated by Rechavia Berman

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