The Rabbi Who Challenges Judaism
I thoroughly enjoyed the article about Rabbi Harold Schulweis (“The Rabbi Who Wrestles With God,” by Marlene Adler Marks, Sept. 20). In the future, when I have important questions for myself or others, I’ll stop and think: “Is this the right question?”
I was raised as a Jew, but we never really practiced Judaism in our home. Two years ago, when I separated from my husband of eight years and my feelings and emotions directed me to seek some sort of comfort, I turned to the New Testament and found none.
Then I was lucky enough to find Malkah Schulweis, who opened doors for me that I never imagined possible. I attended several of Rabbi Schulweis’ lectures at Valley Beth Shalom, and the experience has enriched my life. I have never been more proud to be a Jew.
The Schulweis story was beautifully done and should be an inspiration for those seeking answers for the truths that continue to escape us.
Hyman H. Haves
Without disputing the importance of Rabbi Schulweis’ career, I specifically object to Marks’ characterization of Rabbi Mordecai Finley’s Ohr HaTorah congregation as religiously uneducated and mindlessly ecstatic. As a recent Yale graduate--and ostensibly one of those “young Jews [who] no longer thrill to the spoken word” and who “flock” to congregations like Ohr HaTorah, I have found the Finley services the most intellectually engaging I’ve ever attended.
Finley’s head-on engagement with Jewish spirituality does not obviate but rather demands intellectual rigor. His frank and incisive exploration of mystical themes is but one facet of an approach that also comprises rich textual analysis and moral self-scrutiny.
Although some members of the Ohr HaTorah, myself included, have had little formal religious education, others have had a great deal, and all of us believe that the congregation offers great opportunities for growth in religious learning--not “training,” a word better applied to the toilet habits of children and dogs.
Diane J. Klein
While I found Marks’ article informative and motivating, it would be a dreadful oversimplification to characterize Ohr HaTorah and Rabbi Finley as the Jewish equivalent of a sing-and-chant pep rally; nor should one categorize his congregants as lacking some understanding of Halakha, history, liturgy or Judaica.
The rabbi holds a PhD, lectures at USC, speaks from a wide span of personal experience (kibbutz and yeshiva study in Israel, service in the U.S. Marines) and gives pro- vocative, intellectually rigorous sermons. He has the ability to synthesize disparate and seemingly contradictory concepts in a manner palatable and worthy of serious thought by 1990s Americans.
Dr. Charles Wiseman
Rabbi Schulweis personifies Anais Nin’s quote that “the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Rabbi, you blossomed beautifully.
Joseph N. Feinstein