Gottfried_12-1989
Reviews

Exorcisms

"Truth rests with God alone, and a little bit with me."
—Yiddish Proverb

Moshe Leshem ends Balaam's Curse with a warning against the growing political power of the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate. By yielding to Orthodox authorities on educational and cultural matters, he says, Israelis are sacrificing their democratic patrimony. For the sake of Israeli democracy and of the country's future relations with other nation states, Leshem urges that Israel perform a separation of church and state. This would mean that Israelis would treat religion as a private matter and, among other things, accord to the leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism full parity with the now established Orthodox rabbinate. Only through such reforms, Leshem insists, can Israelis avert the dubious blessing—in reality a curse—that the gentile prophet Balaam pronounced upon their ancestors in the desert: "Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Numbers 23:9).

Leshem's brief against the Orthodox in Israel overlooks certain cultural realities. Such massive interference with religious-cultural patterns would certainly offend most Israelis outside the intelligentsia. The (misnamed) Conservative and Reformed Jewish movements in Israel are made-in-America imports; they have little or no support even among Israeli secularists...

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