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Conversations

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It is fashionable in some religious circles to idolize cult leaders and to refrain from (and even deeply resent) any criticism aimed at these great ones. It is fashionable in some circles to foster “echo reasoning”, where it is only licit to speak with others who share the same views, where it is forbidden to hear opposing ideas and critiques. Such circles represent a genuine danger to healthy religious life.

America is not just a powerful and vast country. It is also an idea, a compelling idea that has a message for all people in all lands. As American Jews, we are committed to the ideals of freedom and equality, human dignity and security, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have come far as a nation, but very much remains to be done.

In our time, like throughout history, there are those who seek to manipulate crowds in dangerous, murderous and hateful ways. There are those who play on the fears and gullibility of the masses. But there are also those who resist the crowd instinct and maintain the personality instinct. These are the stars who will form a new kind of crowd, a crowd that will bring human beings together in harmony and mutual respect.

The religious establishment is obligated to address cases of intermarriage, children of intermarriages, and people of Jewish ancestry. The key to Jewish unity is for Batei Din to recognize the rulings of others who follow different halakhic opinions, even when they vigorously disagree with their positions.

How we communicate is just as important as the content we are communicating. Until we learn to engage in discourse that is truly civil, we, too, will be stuck on the precipice of our promised land, unable to progress together toward a greater society.

Amos’ great innovation on the biblical landscape is that Israel’s moral state directly affects its national destiny. Arguably, the Book of Amos is exclusively about morality and social justice.