Rabbi Marc Soloway

A Rabbi and Another Rabbi Walk into a Bar…

I am writing this article because I was very strongly encouraged to by my friend Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder whose article was in yesterday’s BJN. I was initially interested in the more private dialogue, which Rabbi Goldfeder and I have been having, but am writing to express strong objections to much of what was stated and even more that was implied in yesterday’s piece.

Written as a clear promotion of Orthodox Judaism and a subtle attack on the other denominations, Rabbi Goldfeder, who really is my friend by the way, falls into some very dangerous and murky waters in defending a Judaism whose name means “the right way to think,” and therefore implies that anyone who thinks and acts differently is wrong. This “right-way-to-think Judaism” has, in my view, allowed and even promoted, unspeakably wrong and immoral acts in the world, including abuse of animals and workers, profound gender warfare, culminating in spitting on and verbally abusing a 12-year-old girl in Israel, extreme homophobia and the incitement of hateful racism in an endless series of statements and actions by Orthodox rabbis in Israel.

I am not, for even one moment, suggesting that Rabbi Goldfeder and the Aish Kodesh community does any of these things and I know that he (and hopefully they) are equally appalled by them. I am, however, challenging the assumption that Orthodox Judaism = right and non-Orthodox = wrong. This is borne out neither historically, morally nor educationally. The notion that there has always somehow been only one correct way of being Jewish and that any other expression of Judaism is an aberration shows a lack of knowledge of our history and our sociology. True, contemporary Jews are all descendants of rabbinic Judaism, which was an ingenious paradigm shift that allowed continuity and survival after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70CE, but in its inception, this Judaism included a multiplicity of voices.

I do not claim for a second that Conservative Judaism is the only right way, in thought or in practice, but I do believe that it is an authentic, if imperfect, expression and interpretation of that rabbinic Judaism, integrating halacha (Jewish law) and modernity with a considerable amount of intellectual honesty, even if it is sometimes clumsy and a little too dry. Conservative Judaism has never defined itself outside Jewish Law, but has rather followed the tradition of the rabbis of the Talmud in recognizing that there are times when that law changes, when its original context has changed.

In my view, Orthodoxy has again and again taken the category of pattur (meaning exempt) and changed it into assur (meaning forbidden.) For instance, there are sources that clearly allow women certain ritual roles, including being called up to the Torah, but does not obligate them, which eventually led to strict prohibitions and gender separation that some scholars assert was not always the case. This is one example in which Conservative Judaism allowed halacha to evolve, just as it had in other areas of law in the past.

Rabbi Goldfeder implied in his article that we, whoever we are, are somehow only putting our energy as activists into issues of global poverty in the developing world and environmentalism while ignoring the plight of Jews. Well, where is he and his community every Passover, Rosh HaShanah and Hanukkah when I, along with dozens of my congregants and members of other shuls run programs for Jewish seniors in conjunction with Jewish Family Services? Our Hesed Initiative provides hundreds of meals and visits to members of our community in pastoral need.

The Torah, in my reading of it, so clearly and strongly demands of us that we also must have concern for the stranger, for the vulnerable in our world, for the hungry, outside our own. An Orthodoxy that promotes Jewish welfare only to serve other Jews, especially in a world where there is considerable affluence in some Jewish communities, and that we ignore the plight of millions of starving children, also God’s creatures, is a damaging misreading of the Torah that I hold sacred; a Torah that demands of me that I have compassion for God’s creatures in their suffering.

I have been to too many events within the Orthodox community, ok excepting Aish Kodesh, where 100s and 100s of Styrofoam cups, plastic plates and cutlery are thrown out, destined for landfills to leach their toxins into our rivers. Is this “right Judaism” when our Torah and rabbinic tradition so clearly demand of us that we are guardians of this earth? The statement that we liberal Jews are somehow only concerned with ‘trivial’ matters, like our planet’s survival and humanity dying of starvation and curable diseases from unclean water, while we ignore the plight of our Jewish brothers and sisters, is so absurd.

Yes, I was twice co-chair of Hazon’s Jewish Food Conference, looking at issues of health and sustainability around our food system, while some so-called Kosher food continues to poison us and is too often corrupt in its production; yes, I went to Ghana last summer with AJWS and worked with an NGO rescuing children as young as six from slavery. It is precisely my love and my connection to Judaism and my reading of Torah that obligates me to do this, not some wishy-washy liberal version of it that betrays our tradition.

I passionately believe in a pluralism that places real value on the different expressions of Jewish life and I actually love Aish Kodesh and its rabbi and really want that community to succeed and grow, as I am so grateful for the depth of Torah and the fervent connection to mitzvot and authenticity that emanates from those walls. I also am so grateful for and indebted to the Reform movement, in which both Rabbi Goldfeder and I were raised, and which has contributed so much to the world in its prophetic vision of social justice and we are blessed with powerful and wonderful Reform Rabbis in Boulder to continue that vision. I also feel connected to the accessible spirituality and depth that has emerged from Jewish Renewal. I am comfortable in my discomfort as a rabbi and teacher of Conservative Judaism, but I will never, ever claim that it is the right and only authentic expression of Judaism.

Leave the monkey outside and let’s get a beer.

About Rabbi Marc Soloway

Marc is a native of London, England where he was an actor and practitioner of complimentary medicine before training as a rabbi in London, Jerusalem and Los Angeles. He was ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies at the American Jewish University in 2004 and has been the the spiritual leader at Bonai Shalom in Boulder ever since. Marc was a close student of Rabbi Zalman Schechter Shalomi and received an additional smicha (rabbinic ordination) from him in 2014, just two months before he died. He has been the host and narrator of two documentary films shown on PBS; A Fire in the Forest: In Search of the Baal Shem Tov and Treasure under the Bridge: Pilgrimage to the Hasidic Masters of Ukraine. Marc is a graduate of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality, a fellow of Rabbis Without Borders, has traveled to Ghana in a rabbinic delegation with American Jewish World Service and co-chair of the Rabbinical Council and national board member of Hazon, which strives to create more sustainable Jewish communities. In 2015, Marc was among a group of 12 faith leaders honored at The White House as “Champions of Change” for work on the climate. Marc is a proud member of Beit Izim, Boulder’s Jewish goat milking co-op.

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  1. Thank you for this article. It reflects that which is most admirable about Judaism, and the absolute need for a commitment to pluralism and acceptance as we move forward into the twenty first century. Without that, I am not sure how Judaism will survive. I hope and pray that there will be more organizations like AJWS, and the Southern Sudan Health Partnership (right here in Boulder), that recognize the absolute need of Jews to extend themselves towards others, to take on the mantle of chosen-ness by performing acts of tikkun olam wherever they are needed – both within the Jewish community and without. The inherent possibility of multiple readings and understandings of Torah are what allow us to be both better as a people, and as individuals. Rigidity, exclusivity and judgmentalism will only hinder us. Yasher Koach, Rabbi Marc.

  2. Gavriel Goldfeder

    Thanks Rabbi Soloway and Rachel for your comments. The larger point here is about dialogue, the dignity of difference, and the possibility of learning from and defining ourselves in the context of our differences, along with our similarities.

    Against the backdrop of a solid friendship, I believe that Rabbi Soloway is missing the point. Of course we can point to where Orthodoxy fails, and where each denomination fails. But the contrasts I have pointed out transcend denomination. This is not a promotion of Orthodoxy. It is a promotion of clear boundaries and clear categories which can then be invested within each denomination with its own meaning sets and even ritual observances.

    For example, take Shabbat. Rabbi Soloway and Ms. Amaru are welcome to defend the 'right' of any individual to choose how it is observed. But to what end? Who wins with this defense? I believe this is where the Conservative movement is weak and therefore dangerous: the willingness to defend weakens the capacity to proscribe, direct, or guide. The (what I perceive to be) unwillingness to project a clear, willful message of structure, of halacha, even in the widest sense of the word, in favor of a Bill of Rights, is in my opinion not only misguided but ineffective.
    To my mind, and no one asked, we should all me emphasizing Shabbat so strongly. And I am not talking Orthodox per se, though there are enormous benefits to the Orthodox model. But one day a week no driving, or at least very limited, family time, no answering phones equals fully present, not manipulating the world for a change, meditating on it not being ours. Why argue with me about Orthodoxy? Why not argue with people who do not know about the splendorous gifts of Shabbat?
    For another example, why argue with me about Orthodoxy when I am defending the sanctity of your role as rabbi? Why are you skirting the issue? When some tells me about "Marc" I correct them and say "Rabbi Soloway". (How many Orthodox rabbis are making sure the local Conservative rabbi is being called rabbi, BTW?). This is for you, and for your congregants!!!??!! Everyone benefits from the that sacred relationship remaining sacred. But you want to tell me that is an Orthodox view? Who wins with that argument?
    Rabbi Soloway and I spoke today about robust vs flaccid pluralism. Flaccid pluralism, becomes ennui, an inert live-and-let-live approach wherein nothing actually happens. Nobody grows,because nobody challenges anyone else. While Rabbi Soloway read my piece as an attack on Conservative Judaism, anyone who knows me knows I will attach any idea I do not think works. If the way you practice is off limits to debate because of Pluralsim, then we have lost an important opportunity. it is as if pluralism is a mystical ideal, born in the Garden, promised in the afterlife, if only we could achieve it here on earth. I hear similar language about Paradigm Shift. I once asked a local rabbi about renewal and messianic Jews. He told me that since the Paradigm Shift, it's all good. A similar danger here: invoke pluralism to avoid having to think through your own ideas, beliefs, and commitments. Who wins?
    The Talmud asks the question: if there is a teacher in a village, is the village allowed to let another teacher teach there? In other businesses, the answer might be no. But in Torah, the answer is yes. The reason? Kinat Sofrim Marbeh Chochma. Competition among teachers increases wisdom–for everyone.
    I hope the debate is not over. It feels robust and alive. I have a lot to learn, personally. And I believe you do, too. But let us, both and all, spend less time defending our right to autonomy, and bolster our capacity to think, communicate, listen and, ideally, grow.

  3. Orthodox means right thinking. Using that word gets us all into trouble because it implies exclusivity and intolerance. So it's not surprising that Rabbi Goldfeder takes the position that he's right and all others are wrong. If Rabbi Goldfeder's view were called haredi or ashkenazi, the discussion would change.

    • Gavriel Goldfeder

      Casual – you haven't addressed any issue I raised. I never mentioned Orthodoxy – I mentioned real issues, real dangers that affect our collective and individual sense of the sacred. That you quickly and erroneously associate me with a denomination indicates a lack of awareness of the basic issues, and leads me to wonder whether you even read my article at all.
      I ask, again, what are you defending?

  4. Thank you, Reb Marc. Thank you. For this eloquent, thoughtful essay and for the living example you provide. Shabbat shalom!

  5. On a trip to Israel, ultra-Orthodox youth threw stones at and called street repairmen Nazis because they had inadvertently unearthed some bones and then continued with the street repair. The ultra-Orthodox often derisively call the secular Israelis their "donkeys" because they carry their load, re: pay taxes, serve in the army and work, while the Ultras see themselves as the only true Jews, therefore deserving of government welfare payments so that they can study Torah. Last summer in Israel, I was stunned by this arrogant, "we are the real Jews" attitude. It is splitting Israeli society, some even worrying about a civil war should Israel ever make peace with the Arabs. What is most troubling is that this is no different than fundamentalist here is the US who want to impose their brand of belief on all, for instance banning a woman's right to choose, rather than "live and let live." And no different than Moslem fundamentalists who want to impose their view of "right" on the rest of their brethren.
    America is the land of freedom. Its tolerance and celebration of diverse belief systems, as long as they do not harm others directly, is our lifeblood and our strength. It promotes love and respect for everyone rather than labeling and claiming that any one way or belief is the right one.
    Thank you, Reb Marc, for expressing the heart of Judaism.

    • Gavriel Goldfeder

      Don – I can only assume from your response that you are associating me with your past Orthodox traumas. That is certainly no way to move forward! I, for one, never even mentioned the word Orthodox. Did you read my article, or just Rabbi Marc's response?
      I raised real issues that affect our capacity to contact the Holy, regardless of denomination. Please address a real issue outside of what you hate about Orthodox people.

      • Gavriel Goldfeder

        Rabbi Marc has failed to keep this discussion where it belongs – about real issues of contact with the holy. Rather, he has turned this into a biased argument about denomination. He should have known that even if his thoughts on the subject were nuanced, as they essentially were, they would lead to comments like Don's, associating me with some Haredi fanatic.
        I never mentioned Orthodoxy – I raised real issues that, in my opinion, should be thought about by everyone who cares about Holiness. Why don't you tell us how to keep Shabbat sacred, Rabbi? Tell us about the rabbi-congregant relationship and how to keep it holy? Tell us about the specialness of being a Jew?
        But it seems you would rather have us talk about something safe and distant – whether or not the Orthodox are wrong, and old-world, and anti-woman-secular-modern, etc. That's an easy place to go, with images all over the news these days. A much harder topic is how we keep the holy in our lives, and how we keep ourselves on task when cellphones want to take us away.
        There is a real danger when Jews celebrate their autonomy from Torah rather than the privilege of being engaged in Torah. Such vehemence! Such passion! If only that passion could be applied to trying to figure out how to be Godly rather than how to redefine Godly in our own image.

        • Reb Gavriel,
          This is a little rushed as I need to prepare for Shabbat, which I love and value so much. As I said in a private email to you, I agree with about 90% of what you said in the original article and I certainly endorse and encourage Shabbat observance and value everything about it that you do.
          If I am nuanced, how are you not? Your original article had a beautiful and deep concept at its core, which we share, yet you chose to illustrate it with examples that all related to me and us at Bonai Shalom and Har HaShem. I don't think it was random or casual and many of us in the community have read it as an attack on non-Orthodox Judaism and me in particular, so it is astonishing to me that now I am the bad guy who is on the attack and I am the one who has taken the discussion off course, when I never even wanted the discussion in the first place, at least not publically, but your continuing tone does not allow me to keep silent. You insisted that I wrote a public response and I wrote was true for me. I was very, very careful not to implicate you in any of the shameful aspects of Orthodoxy and to state my love and respect for you, yet you quoted, out of context, the scholar in residence we are bringing in this shabbat; you mentioned environmentalism and aid work in Africa as misguided tikkun olam (both of which have been important to me and my community) and you referred to a response paper from the Conservative movement, which we have taken seriously in our community in some instances. In that sense, this is not about issues that "transcend denominations." Like you, I deeply value debate and agree that it sharpens all of us, refining our thinking and our practice. I just deeply question the way in which you have chosen to do this and I have curiosity about your intentions. I am also curious about what your understanding of Tikkun Olam actually is. Holiness and distinctions are so vital and a great discussion to have and I hope that we can get back there if that's truly what you want. I am writing these words with much sadness and apprehension as I am just not sure if the tone of this public debate is helpful to this community that I cherish. I deeply regret that some of my words were taken out of context and implicated you in yucky stuff and I hope that my heartfelt words that spoke of the love and respect I have for you and your community are also being heard. Like you, I hope that we can move back to the real issues and more than anything I hope that this coming Shabbat will bring deep peace in its Holiness as we unplug from all the electronic communication, which has been the only forum for this up to now and deeply hope that our next conversation will include us being able to look into each other's eyes and see beyond any of the harsh words. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Marc

  6. If every community should be concerned with their own people and not extend a hand to others, as Rabbi Goldfeder seemed to argue in yesterday's piece, how can we criticize the world for not responding when the Nazi's murdered the Jews?
    Rabbi Goldfeder asks why Rabbi Soloway is arguing with him rather than with others who do not fully observe Shabbat or who refer to Rabbi Marc in a manner that Rabbi Goldfeder (but apparently not not Rabbi Marc) deems less than respectful. The obvious answer, Rabbi G., is that you started the argument. And that Rabbi Marc does promote Shabbat observance in his classes, his sermons and his personal lifestyle. Why would you assume that he doesn't? And why is this so personal? Why does so much of what you write feel like a fight rather than a discussion?

    • Gavriel Goldfeder

      Friends – I have to apologize for any pain this conversation has caused. I see it has gone far afield from what I had hoped for – a good discussion about retaining or reviving good distinctions that can resanctify a world that is in danger of becoming too profane. I see that my words left too much space for misinterpretation, and that those interpretations are justified based upon my tone and my points.
      And I wonder if there are some things people are just not willing to talk about. So be it. If it serves anyone's ultimate good, I am happy to try to make my point again, perhaps more eloquently and/or more humbly.
      I have been accused of bias. Maybe that is accurate. But I want to ask all of you: Do you see your own bias? Are you willing to look further?

      Meanwhile, Shabbat Shalom.

  7. A beautiful defence of pluralism. Yishar Koach.

  8. With friends like Rabbi Goldfeder who needs enemies?

    • Simah,
      Rabbi Goldfeder really is my friend and definitely not my enemy. He is a passionate, deep and very intelligent man who lives his life with integrity and authenticity and is a wonderful teacher of Torah. I certainly never intended for my comments to create any hostility towards him and your comment makes me sad.

  9. First and foremost, here on the BJN, achdus-Jewish unity! If that gets lost because we can't honor differing opinions we gotta look at ourselves seriously. Thank you for all the open honest discussion…chill on the attacks and judgments though. THANKS to David and Cheryl Fellows for the vision and tremendous work in bringing us this forum, the dialogue they were hoping for and R. Goldfeder for the chutzpa to put it out there and get it started!

  10. Gavriel Goldfeder

    Thanks Rabbi Soloway for your continued heartfulness as this discussion heats up. With Shabbat behind me (where I tried to keep all the distinctions intact) I feel reinvigorated to engage in a conversation about real issues, rather than any of us hiding behind overly simplistic denominational categories (and I will include myself in that.)

    I have had time to reflect on what I think is the fundamental question: why am I, or any one us, saying what we are saying? Who has the courage to look at the core motive? What is being defended — is it my ego, my right to keep doing exactly what i have been doing? My right to not learn anything new? My right to self-congratulate for being on the right team? Or what?

    I have looked at my own motives, and I'd say about 80% is a genuine desire that everyone have the opportunity to experience the blessings offered by these sacred relationships. And 20% a combination of arrogance, insensitivity, and impetuousness.

    I accept that I am a far from perfect vessel for expressing the sentiments I have expressed here. If I could do it differently I would. But I hold to them just the same: Shabbat should be strengthened in whatever way possible. I recommend not answering the phone for a start.. A celebration of being Jewish should be strengthened. The sacred relationship with our rabbis should be strengthened – I recommend not calling rabbis by their first name for a start. Tikkun olam should be strengthened – I'd recommend finding out what that Torah says about that (as per Shaul's comment, above) for a good intro.

    May Hashem guide us all to the truth, and to community that listens, learns and grows.

  11. Rabbi Goldfeder you are an Orthodox Rabbi if you acknowledge that 20% of your motives include: Arrogance, Insensitivity and Impetuousness than what on God's Earth are you doing shoving this in the public domain for all to witness and suffer? Was there such an urgency for these remarks that you had to put them out there before you refined the content and tone of what you shared? How is it that your Board allows you to besmirch Orthodoxy and their congregation? I strongly suggest that you have a board member review your public comments to help avoid the kind of toxicity that has transpired as a result of your remarks.

  12. Gavriel Goldfeder

    Because 80% is pretty darn good.

    • Rabbi Goldfeder I must say I am shocked by the casualness of your response. In one post you publicly apologize for the pain caused by your remarks acknowledging as well that you brought character issues into your public foray. You seem to have a sense of humor, unfortunately one of the ways humor can be used is to avoid absorbing the reality of a situation. In this case the reality that while ultimately I do believe there is value to the some of the essential points you would like us to consider you communicated them in a manner so counterproductive and problematic that the majority of ink spilt is addressing what is perceived as your lack of perspective, knowledge, humility and tolerance. In one moment to argue for the need for more reverence in the rabbi congregant relationship and in another to simply shrug off your own responsibility which makes a mockery of the very rabbinate you seek to shore up is shall we say lacking. I cannot imagine that your congregation employs you nor the benefactors who support your congregation do so in order for you to carry on like this.

  13. Yiddishe, you may be learned and capable of posing an intellectual response to a question which was simply posed by R. Goldfeder with a challenge to open it for discussion amongst the community. Are you charged! You got something for Rabbi Goldfeder and Orthodoxy and I might imagine where it's rooted. For me, I find one's personality, honesty and owning responsibility more refreshing than an intellectual response. I find Rabbi Goldfeder's willingness to "put it out there", get the discussion going and get us thinking, while taking responsibility and being authentic and vulnerable in his process, quite admirable. Agree with the Rabbi's position or not, I prefer to learn from a man with this type of awareness and chochma. Yiddishe, your cup runeth over a bit much.

  14. Avraham, I await Rabbi Goldfeder's substantive response to my responses below. No one denies that Reabbi Goldfeder ultimately has something of value to contribute to our thinking unfortunately he is unable to communicate that in a manner that is useful to his purposes.

    Sabbath- You express concern over the permitting of unspecified electronic devices on the Sabbath by an unspecified group putting the ambiguity of your references aside surely you must be aware that Orthodoxy in part has permitted all kinds of electronic and mechanical devices. Why do you not complain about the use of Shabbat elevators, ovens or microphones. Does using a a fridge make the Sabbath less sacred? How are we to evaluate the "distinction" between what Orthodoxy has permitted and the halakhic logic and values behind it and what we can only presume you express concern over what the Conservative movement has permitted? Is it possible that the Sacredness of the Sabbath can be respected even in contexts where the permission of specific electronic devices is deemed useful or necessary? Judging by Orthodoxy's own precedents it would seem that the answer is yes.

    Rabbis- you express concern over rabbis being referred to by their congregants by their first name as somehow devaluing the sacred relationship possible or somehow intimating that the rabbi and congregant are regarded by the congregant as equal. Since the advent of modernity one of the values that moderns have developed and cherished is autonomy. In addition, the level of the rabbinate has significantly declined in terms of what training in rabbinic scholarship and what level of personal observance is necessary to be a rabbi. Adding to this is the desire of rabbis to understandably connect with their congregants as people as a bridge building measure and their at times to desire to be humble and it starts to become clear. I still find it odd that as an Orthodox rabbi you chose to bring this point up as surely you must be aware that Orthodoxy in large part does fundamentally recognize any of the rabbis you mentioned as rabbis and nor does it give them the respect that rabbis deserve yet you as a representative of Orthodoxy are saying that these rabbis should be given more respect for the titles and roles they have assumed. Perhaps if your colleagues treated Rabbi's: Rose, Gross, Firestone Soloway etc.. with more respect this would assist in our reverence for them. In the end as the sages have said, "The Children of Israel if they are not prophets they are the children of prophets." I sense that each rabbi gets the respect they deserve just like people get the leader they deserve.

    Jewish Priests (Kohanim)-You express dismay over a Kohen not necessarily having to be given the first aliyah as somehow devaluing their specialness. You did not explain why Kohanim were given the first aliyah? It is my understanding that this is to assuage the ego of the Kohanim who hold themselves special (Darchie Shalom) is this a value that is truly necessary to defend in the modern world and in Boulder? Does not the rabbinic tradition tell us that, "That a bastard who is a Torah Scholar takes precedence before an ignoramous who is a High Priest"? Is it not possible that the rabbis are expressing more fluidity in terms of the honor due a Kohen and it is conceivable that this kernel of a value can then be applied in other contexts and situations? Are there not halakhic opinions that allow in some cases for a Kohen not to be called first to the Torah? Your other reference to children of Prohibited Marriages as being in need of not being given the respect due a proper Kohen does not address the significant complexity of the issue that these situations i..e Prohibited Marriages present for the Modern world, Jew and Rabbi. You criticize the Conservative movements developing position on this without providing any context. According to your Halakha you would never consent to the marriage of a Kohen to either a convert or divorcee nor would you permit the marriage of a Kohen to a Jewish woman who had even one act of sex with a Gentile or was molested say by an immediate family member. You do not address the tragedy or difficulties this can involve nor do you address any explanation of why these laws whether Biblical or Rabbinic require upholding yet you criticize other rabbis for their distinction disolving. Does not the rabbinic tradition teach, "If there is no knowledge – distinction from where?"


  15. Choseness-You criticize the rewording of who chose us from among the nations to who chose us with the nations as again being a distinction disolving problem. Surely you must be aware that 20th century fascism has been responsible for more deaths of our people than any other ideology or religion. It is not surprising then that modern Judaism's have sought to mute elements of the Jewish tradition that come across (and often really are) as chauvanistic, elitist and religiously fascist. The translation does not negate Jewish chosenness it simply affirms that other nations are chosen as well for their own destinies. This should be applauded for its inclusionary element and is not intended to negate the role of the Jewish people as chosen to learn and live the Torah. Again, you attack others but do not mention nor defend your movements own distinctions that we can only presume you defend. Distinctions also found in the prayer book such as: Thank you God for not making me a woman! Which I trust you say every day or Thank You God for not making me a Gentile! Are these distinctions languaged in a manner that you truly feel comfortable with? I encourage you to study Maimonides position on the matter of the distinction or lack thereof between Jew and Gentile as pertaining to the afterlife in contrast to more particularistic views. Influenced by Aristotle he seemed to imply that the real distinction is between those who have attained true opinions and developed their intellect and those who have not. What are we to do with the distinction of the founder of Chabad Hassidism who posits that there is a Divine Soul that only a Jew has?

    Tikkun Olam. You criticize how people enact what they term Tikkun Olam is as somehow being too universalist and neglecting our own people. Firstly, you fail to cite any rabbinic precedent of what Tikkun Olam is without again reference to even one rabbinic source. The cases you do mention seem more like acts of Kindness not Tikkun Olam but please let's get some bonafide rabbinic sources as befitting a rabbi and the public debate you seem to want to encourage. The essence of Tikkun Olam as I understand it is protecting Jewish society for various ills whether they be political, social or economic. Is it really so problematic that Tikkun Olam in the 21st century at at time when we live in a global village and our more aware of what happens outside of the Jewish Ghetto and we are blessed financially as an ethnicity and nation that we assist others nations who are impoverished or suffering? The premise that a value or norm in this case loses its authenticity when it gets expanded or takes in new direction or meaning equally relevant to the times is specious. Should Jews living in Boulder help out those Ultra Orthodox poor who live in self- created poverty by avoiding by and large the army and working for a living? It is religiously healthy for the Jewish people to care about other human beings and not wrap itself in a religious and ethnic narcissism.

    Rabbi Goldfeder if you are going to encourage public debate about Judaism then please write in a manner that is respectful of the subject and provide sources and context. I am sure like in any rabbinic debate there are at least two sides however your manner of presentation is so superficial, ambiguous and religiously partial that it does not serve you nor the Boulder Jewish community and indeed this is reflected in many of the comments you have received.

  16. in favor of unity

    Just one simple thought about what Hashem desires from all humankind: Treat others as you'd like to be treated and try to emulate our Creator. Everything else devolves into divisive details, folks – just like this discussion.