The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology has circulated the following announcement:
On tuesday Oct. 12 at USU Menachem Fisch from the University of Tel Aviv will be speaking on “Science, Judaism and the Religious Crisis of Modernity”. Fisch has written widely on 19th century philosophy, plus the acclaimed book Rational Rabbis: Science and Talmudic Culture.
The announcement reminded me of reading Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews. The whole thing gripped me but I really came afire when I read about 18th and 19th century rabbis who tried to open the ghetto to the world without losing the faith nurtured there. They thought reason could dance to faith’s tune, they wanted to understand modernity in the light of Judaism and learn what was good in modernity, they wanted to open to the world without losing themselves in it, they were exactly like me and my fellow-traveling neo-orthodox. They had the same enthusiasm and the same goals.
Note the sequel: Judaism opened and opened until in this country the observing Jews are those who go to synagogue on the occasional Sunday, to listen to a woman rabbi announce Wicca Wednesday before moving on into a few prayers and platitudes purloined from their former Law; and these are the observing Jews.
Where the Jews go today will we be tomorrow? I hope not. One reason for hope is the institutional church, run by non-theologians and non-intellectuals. Another reason is my faith in God, which outweighs my faith in the downwardness of human nature. He can navigate us between the Scylla of assimilation and the Charybdis of isolation, if not without a few bumps.