Sunday, January 24, 2010
I Score a Footnote
Dr. Adam S. Ferziger is one of the leading minds in understanding Orthodox Jewry, both in the historical nineteenth century setting and in the modern context. He is the author of Exclusion and Hierarchy: Orthodoxy, Nonobservance, and the Emergence of Modern Jewish Identity, which deals with the creation of Orthodox Judaism in nineteenth century Germany in terms of its understanding of the dominant Reform movement. I actually met him once a few years ago when he spoke about breakaway synagogue in early eighteenth century London that was set up because the established synagogue was allowing Sabbath breakers to come up to the Torah. Ferziger points to this as an example of "proto-Orthodoxy." I ended up asking him about the converso background of this community which led into a discussion of Benzion Netanyahu and the debate over the Jewishness of conversos.
A few days ago I was reading his essay, "From Demonic Deviant to Drowning Brother: Reform Judaism in the Eyes of American Orthodoxy," (Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society 15.3 (2009): pg. 56-88) which deals with the back and forth in recent decades within the Haredi community as to how to deal with Reform Jews. Are Reform Jews heretics, who must be rejected and ignored or are they lost Jews who must be saved through outreach? The heart of the essay is a discussion of Rabbi Yaakov Perlow (the Novominsker Rebbe) and his letter to the Jewish Observer in 1999, which took a positive attitude toward recent Reform efforts to bring in more ritual practice into the movement.
This is a wonderful essay, well worth your reading just for itself. I would, though, like to call your attention to footnotes 129 and 132: "Cited in Benzion N. Chinn, 'Towards One People in One World,' The Commentator, Dec. 31, 2002, http://www.yucommentator.com/." This refers to a book review I did for the Yeshiva University student newspaper on Ammiel Hirsch and Yaakov Yosef Reinman's One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them where I attacked the Haredi establishment for doing a more effective job at refuting Reinman's claims of Orthodox tolerance than the Reform ever could. If academic prowess is measured Technorati style in footnotes in respectable publications, this marks an excellent first step.