Where’s The Jewish Richard John Neuhaus?

Rabbi Gil Student nominates Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I agree that R. Sacks is eloquent, but he does lead anybody? Does he influence thought? Does he lead intellectual change? I don’t think so. He’s a silver-tongued spokesman for the British Jewish Orthodox establishment, but he doesn’t break new ground. He won’t break with the Orthodox consensus. He fears saying what he believes and sometimes retracts what he truly believes so his right-wing won’t bother him.

I would nominate Dennis Prager for this role. He’s hugely influential.

Alito writes on hirhurim: Father Richard John Neuhaus wasn’t someone who just wrote magazine articles to defend his faith. He lead a religious trend that changed a culture, influenced the selection of several supreme court justices, and remade elections, colleges, curriculum, and the role of faith in modern America.
Dont make a mockery by debating which Azure article writer you like best.

MO does not have anyone like that, Chief Rabbi included.

TEN POSTS: Do we need a Neuhaus? Yes.

Institutional MO is fighting battles it cannot win. One is against the charedi outlook which is increasingly insular and even obscurantist. That outlook provides comfort and security to some, but is not attractive to many. A young earth? Teehee. Segulot and "Amen" parties? Medieval.

On the left flank, as it were, is the attempt to quash practices such as women’s tefilla groups and ideas like allegorical interpretations of the Chumash and the Documentary Hypothesis. The arguments against these ideas are unlikely to prevail over the majority academic view.

These "battles" cannot be won in the sense of converting the "other side" to the centrist MO view. At best, there will be an agreement to disagree.

More generally, 90% of North American Jewry is indifferent to Orthodoxy of any variety.

So what does MO have to offer the broader Jewish world (and even the non-Jewish world), what insights or concepts of a serious spiritual and/or intellectual nature that are meaningful even outside our own dalet amot? (It’s fair to ask the same about non-Orthodox Jewish thinkers.)

That is where we need more thinkers like Rabbi Sacks.

MICHAEL WRITES: Avraham is to be a "father of nations", and a blessing to the whole world. We are to be a "mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh", and does not a nation of priests need its congregation? We are an ohr lagoyim.

Orthodoxy needs more people like Rabbi Sacks, because it’s a mitzvah from the Torah.

MO WRITES: One key difference: Neuhaus was never afraid to say and write what he believed. The MO figures mentioned all too often do not. Remember how the Chief Rabbi withdrew "Dignity of Difference" and put out a more Chareidi-acceptable version?

Orthodox leaders are trained in yeshivot to analyze Jewish legal texts. Authority in the community requires mastery of those texts. Having gone through our educational system, they have neither the training nor the inclination to address broad conceptual issues that have public-policy implications and philosophical/theological dimensions. Anyone who does seek to grapple with the larger issues risks putting his Orthodox credentials in jeopardy if he is unable to find an "authoritative" classical source that agrees with him.

DF posts: Klinghoffer cites R. Samson Rafael Hirsch as someone who would shape assumptions "of his own faith, other faiths, and no faith." Does he not realize that Hirsch not only did not preach to other faiths, but he championed the idea of separating from members of his OWN faith?

As for the alleged absence of Orthodox social critics – there are countless such figures, in addition to the ones you, Gil, already mentioned. Avi Shafran, Berel Wein [who writes in the same J-Post in which the article appeared] and many more. Can they help it if their pulpit is infinitely smaller than Neuhaus’?

In a nutshell, Klinghoffer’s beef is not so much the absence of rabbis like Neuhaus, but the fact that Orthodox Judaism, or if you prefer, Judaism, is no longer a "religion for the world" as it once may have been, and as Christianity is today. And of course, orthodox Judaisim will never be, so long as it still views all non-Jews through the same lenses it did 2000 years ago, as though they were all still pagans. Klinghoffer wants Jews to spread the good word.

That may well be worth discussing, but Klinghoffer confuses that point with his discussion about Neuhaus.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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