R. Soloveichik at Shearith Israel

16 Tamuz 5773/June 23, 2013

Just after his appointment at Shearith Israel (“Spanish-Portuguese”) and the lively discussion that followed, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik spoke yesterday at Ohab Zedek.  My information, from everyone I spoke to who was there, was that he eloquently emphasized that Jewish Americans have been able to integrate into American society without having to assimilate.  Since we can participate in public discourse from a Jewish perspective, we should do so.

I thoroughly agree with this statement, and R. Soloveichik poses a challenge to progressive Jews (like me) to influence progressive thought in the direction of mutual obligation, respect for intellectual diversity and self-restraint.

But R. Solovieichik, intentionally or not, also challenges himself and his political allies.  His erstwhile friends and heroes (in terms of politics) have supported a cruel, harsh and anti-social agenda that I would call Dickensian if I didn’t have religious sources that would call it “the ways of Sodom”.  I would want any pulpit rabbi, of any viewpoint, to avoid too much political involvement.  But to the extent that R. Soloveichik feels comfortable integrating his religious convictions with his role as a politically engaged citizen, will he try to restore empathy, solidarity and the sense of community to the conservative movement?  And can he?

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