Archive for October, 2009

Judaism 2.0?

October 31, 2009

‘New Jews’ Stake Claim to Culture & Faith
Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(Thanks to OWUJew Alum Michael Cohen, and my brother Stephen for this link!)

Great article that addresses so many issues facing Jews today.  Jam-packed with gerat links and references to organizations and movements that are reshaping Judaism in the 21st century.



For the Torah Tells Me So

October 28, 2009

Last night’s screening of “For the Bible Tells Me So” was, by my account, a great success.  We had 60 people come out to see the film and talk with a diverse panel of speakers.  The documentary follows families and individuals, including Bishop Gene Robinson and Chrissy Gephardt, as they address the question of being gay and being Christian.  After nearly a year of planning, I was glad to see the program attract a significant number of students and other OWU community members.

After the film, my colleague and co-host for the evening, Chad Johns, asked the panel to talk about what struck them most about the film.  When it was my turn at the mic, I admitted that, like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson who is highlighted in the film as a cause of much misinformation about what the bible has to say about homosexuality, I have no theological training.  I would not, therefore, cite passages in the Torah that have been linked to debates on homosexuality and religion.  What I could say with relative certainty, was that I never heard the word abomination in Hebrew school or synagogue.  I was shocked by its recurrent use in the Christian discourse related to homosexuality.  It is a harsh word.  It hurts just to hear it, let alone to have it used to refer to one’s identity.

For me, it this is a reminder that the Torah was written in Hebrew and so when we are reading and speaking about it in English translations, we are necessarily dealing with interpretations of the original text.  These interpretations via translation are then interpreted by their own readers.  As someone in the film suggests, there’s a difference between what the bible “reads” (text) and what it “says” (subtext).

This notion of biblical literalism, of following what the bible reads, is dangerous.  Jews are guilty of this as well as Christians.  However, the Jewish tradition encourages biblical interpretation, and this is one of our greatest assests as a people.  Indeed the notion of adaptation through iinterpretation is often credited with sustaining the Jews through time and place.  We must not forget that we are responsible for our interpretations and we have the power to suggest new interpretations that address new knowledge and understandings.

Like the civil rights movement of the 1950s, I believe our children will someday look back on the obstacles our culture places before gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals as immoral and incomprehensible.  It seems like we’re getting closer to that point everyday.  I wonder what more I can do to help turn the tides.  If showing a movie like this helps, I’m ready to press play.