Michael Doyle's Reviews > One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them

One People, Two Worlds by Ammiel Hirsch
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's review
May 26, 12

bookshelves: judaica
Read from May 03 to 26, 2012

I went into this book expecting a balanced debate between the Reform rabbi and the Orthodox rabbi, with the Reform rabbi defending elements of my own liberal Judaism. I ended the book with far more empathy towards the Orthodox rabbi and more than a little embarrassment about the Reform rabbi.

Throughout the book, Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Reinman describes an Orthodox Judaism that is more loving and less strident or closed to the world than we often hear our Reform rabbis tell us from the bimah. He did stick to his guns about central Orthodox teachings about Jewish law and the status of non-Orthodox Jews, which was absolutely as it should have been. He was extraordinarily graceful throughout his writings to Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch.

In response, Rabbi Hirsch wrote one bitchy, obnoxious, goading email after another to Rabbi Reinman, denigrating and criticizing Orthodoxy directly--all of which Rabbi Reinman never once does regarding liberal Judaism. Rabbi Hirsch's parts of the book read like he's writing to his expected liberal Jewish reader, not to Rabbi Reinman, and it got very trying to have to put up with by the end of the book.

I'm a liberal Jew but I'm a Jew first and foremost, and I believe we have a lot to learn from each other's different approaches to Judaism. (For example, I'm a big fan on ritual, non-ethical mitzot.) I find jingoistic Orthodox-bashing from Reform rabbis needless and tiresome. Especially when we (Reform Jews) spend so much time complaining about being treated the exact, same way by the Orthodox.

I was considering rabbinical school when I read this book. (I still am.) I ended the book concerned that I didn't want to end up a Reform rabbi like Hirsch, and having doubts about choosing a rabbinical program in my own denomination.

How's that for a reaction to a book?

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