Blogs

Dr Denis MacEoin's letter to the Edinburgh University Students' Association

(reprinted from the London Jewish Chronicle, in an issue several years back.)

With all the hundreds of millions of dollars that we have spent and continue to spend on defending ourselves, it seems that it’s never enough. All our defense organizations, museums of tolerance, holocaust memorials—while obviously having a positive influence on many—have not succeeded in eliminating hatred of Jews.

Our financial records are a clearer reflection of our values than anything we say. It is disheartening that leading American politicians—who earn far more than the national average of incomes—share so little of their wealth with charitable causes and humanitarian assistance.

Orthodox communities that wish to employ qualified women in rabbinical positions should be free to do so and should have our blessing. Dogmatic and divisive resolutions do not solve controversial issues. The Modern Orthodox community should not fear positive change, but should welcome it.

I do not believe that Orthodox Jews are more dishonest than other people, and I like to think that Orthodox Jews are more honest. But why are we not surprised when we read or hear about Orthodox Jews accused of cheating or bribing? Why do we laugh at the assumption that Orthodox Jewish sponsorship guarantees the trustworthiness and honesty of a business venture?

The Talmud (Berakhot 31a) provides guidelines for how we are to approach prayer: “Our sages taught: One must not stand in prayer in sadness or in laziness, or in laughter, or in conversation, or in light-headedness, or in idle matters; but [one should pray] in happiness [of a mitzvah].”

But crying isn’t really enough. We also have to cry out, loudly and clearly: unless society as a whole can address the plague of dehumanization and demonization, all of us—of whatever background—are at risk. Crying out is a responsibility of all people, at all levels of society.

The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber (1878-1965) was among the most influential thinkers of his time. His writings had a powerful impact on the Swedish diplomat, Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961), who served as the second Secretary General of the United Nations, from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. They shared a great dream for the U.N.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, synagogues are eager to attract worshippers and new members. Recent issues of New York’s “Jewish Week” newspaper, as well as other publications, have included ads by area synagogues that promise “inspiring” services and sermons, talented cantors, special programs for children etc. Several hotels have placed ads attempting to lure customers to spend the holy days in their “luxurious and chic” facilities.

In October 2007, we opened our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.

Dr Denis MacEoin's letter to the Edinburgh University Students' Association

(reprinted from the London Jewish Chronicle, in an issue several years back.)

With all the hundreds of millions of dollars that we have spent and continue to spend on defending ourselves, it seems that it’s never enough. All our defense organizations, museums of tolerance, holocaust memorials—while obviously having a positive influence on many—have not succeeded in eliminating hatred of Jews.

Our financial records are a clearer reflection of our values than anything we say. It is disheartening that leading American politicians—who earn far more than the national average of incomes—share so little of their wealth with charitable causes and humanitarian assistance.

Orthodox communities that wish to employ qualified women in rabbinical positions should be free to do so and should have our blessing. Dogmatic and divisive resolutions do not solve controversial issues. The Modern Orthodox community should not fear positive change, but should welcome it.

I do not believe that Orthodox Jews are more dishonest than other people, and I like to think that Orthodox Jews are more honest. But why are we not surprised when we read or hear about Orthodox Jews accused of cheating or bribing? Why do we laugh at the assumption that Orthodox Jewish sponsorship guarantees the trustworthiness and honesty of a business venture?

The Talmud (Berakhot 31a) provides guidelines for how we are to approach prayer: “Our sages taught: One must not stand in prayer in sadness or in laziness, or in laughter, or in conversation, or in light-headedness, or in idle matters; but [one should pray] in happiness [of a mitzvah].”

But crying isn’t really enough. We also have to cry out, loudly and clearly: unless society as a whole can address the plague of dehumanization and demonization, all of us—of whatever background—are at risk. Crying out is a responsibility of all people, at all levels of society.

The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber (1878-1965) was among the most influential thinkers of his time. His writings had a powerful impact on the Swedish diplomat, Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961), who served as the second Secretary General of the United Nations, from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. They shared a great dream for the U.N.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, synagogues are eager to attract worshippers and new members. Recent issues of New York’s “Jewish Week” newspaper, as well as other publications, have included ads by area synagogues that promise “inspiring” services and sermons, talented cantors, special programs for children etc. Several hotels have placed ads attempting to lure customers to spend the holy days in their “luxurious and chic” facilities.

In October 2007, we opened our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.