Category Archives: Certainty, Hatred, and Polarization

Imperfect Interpretations: Wrestling with Truth

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April 1, 2012

Laura Shaw Frank
As a teacher in a Jewish community day school, at the core of my agenda is teaching my students to respect the viewpoints of all Jews while still remaining true to their own beliefs. This group of extremist Haredim in Beit Shemesh is a perfect example of what I rail against: refusing to listen to any perspective other than one’s own. More »

Dangerous Uncertainty

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April 1, 2012

Michah Gottlieb
While fundamentalists contend that their beliefs are based on knowledge of absolute truth, religious moderates acknowledge that their beliefs do not depend on such knowledge, which they claim is unattainable. For William Egginton, a professor of comparative literature at Johns Hopkins University, ethics depends on epistemology.  While the fundamentalist who is certain of the truth of her beliefs naturally persecutes those who do not share these beliefs, the moderate is led by her “uncertain faith” to be tolerant of differences, humane, and peaceful toward others since she is unsure that her convictions are truer than anyone else’s.  More »

Can Civility Be the Answer to Polarization?

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April 1, 2012

Eyal Rabinovitch & Melissa Weintraub
In the Jewish community, polarization has been most acute around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Jewish organizations and synagogues creating official policies to avoid Israel altogether, and rabbis across the country retreating from “the death by Israel sermon.” In the resultant wave of civility efforts, those invoking civility generally have one of three things in mind. More »

A History of Hatred: A Lesson for Today

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April 1, 2012

David Makovsky
In the years leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple, the Zealots were known for their efforts in combating the Romans. However, there was one particular Jewish group that focused on killing Jews. They were called the “Sicarii.” More »

Perhaps O Israel?

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April 1, 2012

Avi Shafran There’s something vaguely Marxist about some of the contributions to Sh’ma’s recent symposium on certainty.  Groucho, that is, not Karl. One essay and then another and another, sometimes eloquent and sometimes scholarly, rail against the very ideas of certitude and conviction … with certitude and conviction. Haredim, who by definition feel certain about certain More »

The Other Internet Problem

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April 1, 2012

Jeff Helmreich
One of the starkest contrasts between American and Jewish law involves humiliation. Today, an American can literally embarrass someone to death.
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‘Abomination’ is Hate Speech

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April 1, 2012

Jay Michaelson Most American Jews, according to polls and the official positions of the major religious movements, do not believe that there is anything wrong with homosexuality. Outside the Orthodox community, they understand that sexuality is a trait, not a “lifestyle” or a pathology, and that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people lead lives as More »

From Certainty, Change

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April 1, 2012

Donald H. Heller A considered, evidence-based analysis has led me to conclude that capital punishment should be abolished. But that has not always been how I felt. In the fall of 1977, I wrote the death penalty initiative (the Briggs Initiative) that became the law of the State of California after voter approval (82 percent More »

Discussion Guide – Certainty, Hatred, and Polarization

April 1, 2012

1. How might we change the discourse on challenging and charged Jewish
conversations to reflect that complex issues cannot be defined simply in
dichotomous, “win-lose” ways? How might we approach a discussion of how
Israel can recognize such complexity?

2. Is passionate devotion the province only of the devoutly religious? What price
do liberal Jews pay for their lack of religious certainty? Is our tolerance for
others grounded in our inability to be certain of our own beliefs?

3. Is there a relationship between uncertainty and tolerance? If so, what is it?
What would be the dangers of that relationship?

4. What is the basis for your understanding of pluralism, and what are its limits? More »