JID/JRB policy & The Green/Landes divide – highlights from the comments

I have been home and busy writing this week but what did I get from the comments so far? I got some useful comments from EJ, Aryeh Tepper, and Lipchitz (a pseudonym of an author who may go public). I have also received private emails from people who did not comment but write on both sides of the divide. This may go very public soon. Let’s see if we can gain any further clarity? Is there an editorial policy to trash renewal/indie/neo-hasidism? Why are both sides talking past each other? Is there a real fault line that transcends denominational lines?

EJ wrote:

R. Landes seems to be someone who has left the neighborhood of his childhood, and if you accept the importance of small differences has stretched considerably from his initial upbringing. But from what I see, he has a mindset where Orthodoxy, both Charedi and Modern are looking over his shoulder.

With R. Arthur Green it’s different; he got on the bus in a secular neighborhood, a place which for many looks like close to the end of the line. .. The place his trajectory never visited was Orthodoxy. As a result he has no feel for living Chasidim,.. His Chasidim are all dead, known primarily through their books. He owes Orthodoxy nothing, he doesn’t care much what Orthodox Jews think, and most importantly he is not addressing those who look to Orthodoxy as an essential starting point for their Judaism.

Part of Arthur Green’s continued surprise at the Landes criticism is that he is being given no credit for attempting to keep the outer rings of American Jewry connected to its origins, when they have no memories or experience of Jewish life. If his teaching is to be credible he must include a universalist element.

I do think that ej is correct and perceptive on many of his points.

Lipchitz (may he speedily lose his anon) wrote:

The connecting, instigating, controlling link is the Tivkah Fund [and Neal Kozodoy (who used to run Commentary)].
The Tikvah Fund is a very wealthy, rightwing philanthropy with deep corporate pockects and neoconservative roots.
If you do a bit of digging online, the person you’ll find most interesting is Roger Hertog, who is Chairman of the Board at Tikvah.

Many out there in the community of academics, rabbis, and journalists share Lipchitz’s perspective.

Aryeh Tepper wrote

To set the record straight, there is absolutely no editorial policy at Jewish Ideas Daily when it comes to these issues
I did not present the issue – or at least I didn’t intend to present the issue – as an either/or. I am in deep sympathy with certain dimensions of post-denominational Judaism precisely because revitalizing the tradition is far more important than defining it, which is what usually happens within institutional frameworks
I find the notion of zohar=universal eros to be compelling, and it is in tune with certain notions emerging from the Renewal Movement regarding the ‘meaning’ of Divinity.
Landes attacks a non-personal God, but as a student of the Rambam, not to mention the mystical tradition, I don’t see a non-personal God as a problem
I think the common denominator is that all the pieces critique Jewish Renewal, Indie minyanim, etc., for their lack of clarity as well as an immature sense of communal responsibility. Those values – clarity and a mature sense of communal responsibility.
you’ll see that I’m more than willing to engage in dialogue. For Waskow, however, I, and those like me, are a-priori disqualified as interlocutors because we question whether the historical process that he considers to be progress and that issues in Jewish Renewal, is, in fact, progress.
And this I think helps answer your question as to why defenders of Jewish Renewal argue so emotionally.. one only opposes what is clearly true out of willful blindness.

Aryeh likes Zohar, piyyut and all the other avenues of renewal. But what really gets his goat is the a-priori progressiveness, as if their positions superseded other positions. I can accept that as someone who does not want to be a-priori superseded.

Lipchitz responds:

Like so many of the negative critiques that appear in Jewish Ideas Daily and in the Jewish Review of Books. Instead of substantive disagreement, we get a lot of ad-hominem invective, name-calling, sniping and snide innuendo about Jewish Renewal, or Independent Minyanim, or Arthur Green, or Liberalism, or secular forms of Judaism, or J Street.
As for “clarity,” Aryeh, I simply cannot take at face value your assurance that there are no hidden neoconservative orthodoxies dictating editorial policy at Jewsih Ideas Daily (or for that matter at the Jewish Review of Books); certainly not if Neal Kozodoy, the old editor in chief from Commentary, is running things on staff at JID
Please understand that there are many people out there who are very upset by this uncivil tone and lack of transparency.

OK, we are now back to the starting point of my post. Even if one side thinks they superseeded the other and is emotional, nevertheless, why the seeming editorial direction? Why the uncivil tone in some of the reviews? (Editors are responsible for editing for tone)

10 responses to “JID/JRB policy & The Green/Landes divide – highlights from the comments

  1. I’m not qualified to comment on JID, but as a (paid!) subscriber to JRoB, it’s clear that the latter publication is living in a time warp, somewhere between Podhoretz’s first memoir (Making It) and the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man (which took place in late May 1967).

    The highlights of the issues I have in front of me concern Kafka, Trilling, the Sholem-Arend correspondence, Saul Bellow, Herman Wouk, Philip Roth and — on the edgy side — Mad Magazine. One would not know that Jacob Neusner changed Talmudic scholarship, not to mention Boyarin.

    So why is it a surprise that Arthur Green and the (neo) Havurah Movement raise hackles? Didn’t they freak out Commentary and Judaism the first go around?

  2. Of course, this raises the question of why this is so. It’s not like the Abraham Socher or Margot Lurie are old enough to remember Commentary in its pre-neo-con glory days.

    However, stopping the clock at May 31, 1967 avoids all sorts of messy problems. Really, a small price to pay to avoid confronting the realities of Zionism’s implementation, the uncomfortable relativism of contemporary scholarship, and Bob Dylan’s middle period.

  3. If I might submit a piece of evidence… In my piece, “Where Have All the Prophets Gone?” I open with Buber, move on to R’ Kook, and touch upon Heschel: http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2011/1/18/main-feature/1/where-have-all-the-prophets-gone

    No a-priori, anti-neo-Hasidic animus there.

  4. Conveniently enough for my thesis, Steinhardt, the subject of Tepper’s essay, died in 1968.

    As for any contemporaries who embody Buber’s critiques of Zionism, Kook’s critique of rigid Orthodoxy, or Heschel’s skepticism of the American miltary complex — well, Tepper has them covered in his dismissal of “gestural politics that, in the name of ‘prophetic ethics,’ lines up neatly with the tenets of contemporary liberalism.”

    I’m not sure how much that triumvirate of 20th century prophets actually made “the earth shake and the sky tremble,” which is Tepper’s criterion for a successful prophet, but I don’t see the JID/JROB enterprise as offering a warm home to any prophetic writing, earth-shaking or otherwise.

    A telling example of JID’s fond embrace of the status quo comes from a JID tweet today that approvingly cites Shlomo Avineri’s umbrage that the Jewish Agency wants to get involved in certifying (Orthodox!) converts for aliyah. What Avineri doesn’t mention, and JID ignores, is the anti-Zionist implications of letting these decisions be made by anti-Zionist haredi bureaucrats. But in the JID time warp, the Chief Rabbi is Shlomo Goren, haredi control over conversions is not a threat to Jewish peoplehood, and there are no unseemly ironies complicating the noble Zionist vista.

  5. Rav Landes’ recent response to Art Green can be found here.
    Hodesh Tov L’kulam!

  6. Lipchitz’s complaint regarding the civility of tone is compromised by his personalization of criticism of JID regarding Kozodoy. Let’s call a spade a spade here – the ‘calls for civility in discourse’ are simply the latest type of ammunition used to end a conversation by those who haven’t a feasible argument. Call it the new accusation of racism, homophobia, etc.

    Lipchitz’s claims of “ad-hominem invective, name calling, sniping” and so on could be taken more seriously were he not to follow with descriptions of “neoconservative orthodoxies” and the personal attack mentioned above.

    Finally, the inappropriate and overuse of the word “negative” has become nauseating. The same people calling for civility accuse of negativity when disagreement appears in the form of an unbeatable argument.

    It’s all quite pathetic.

    Like so many of the negative critiques that appear in Jewish Ideas Daily and in the Jewish Review of Books. Instead of substantive disagreement, we get a lot of ad-hominem invective, name-calling, sniping and snide innuendo about Jewish Renewal, or Independent Minyanim, or Arthur Green, or Liberalism, or secular forms of Judaism, or J Street.
    As for “clarity,” Aryeh, I simply cannot take at face value your assurance that there are no hidden neoconservative orthodoxies dictating editorial policy at Jewsih Ideas Daily (or for that matter at the Jewish Review of Books); certainly not if Neal Kozodoy, the old editor in chief from Commentary, is running things on staff at JID
    Please understand that there are many people out there who are very upset by this uncivil tone and lack of transparenc

  7. I thought R’ Green had a short stint with orthodoxy.

  8. It’s worth repeating a tidbit buried in the latest reply from Landes: JROB hadn’t commissioned anyone to review Radical Judaism before Landes volunteered. Maybe Socher just doesn’t take theology seriously, and is happy to let the Orthodox police its boundaries?

  9. An editor has a choice: One can curate and polish an already existing idea. Or one can strive towards an ever receding truth by encouraging new ideas and critiquing old ideas. JROB and JID have chosen the former path.

    Aryeh Tepper’s current JID piece on Shomer Hatzair provides another example. It’s a good example because it recalls Anita Shapira’s lengthy yet disappointing piece on the kibbutz movement that appeared in JROB earlier this year. Shapira’s piece was disappointing because it failed to apply any of the lessons of the kibbutz movement to the present moment. I would have liked a dialogue between the idealistic impulse of the kibbutz movement and ourselves. What did they get wrong? More importantly, what are we getting wrong? What did they know that we might have forgotten?

    Where Shapira failed to connect the historical with the present, Tepper feels comfortable judging the past by his eternal verities:

    “Hashomer Hatzair as a movement suffered from the limitations of its strident rebellion against Jewish tradition and its contempt for religion,” writes Tepper, who contrasts “the encrusted perspective of Hashomer Hatzair” with “the religious-Zionist community that produces the disproportionate share of elite Israeli troops.” He further castigates the movement for failing to learn the self-evident lesson of “the disengagement plan or of what followed afterward, including the Kassam missiles that promptly began falling.”

    This is not engagement with ideas; this is preaching from the perspective of having attained ideological certitude.

    It this conviction that we have reached the end of history which makes for such dreary reading. There is no doubt or discomfort or even curiosity about our present-day arrangements, the particular haphazard collection of religion, politics and economics that shaped our present, no doubt transient, order. There is no desire to make things better, because how could things be better?

    Orthodoxy as a path to ethics? Judaism surpassing pantheism? Mordechai Kaplan a more real spectre than Meir Kahane? This was old-fashioned a quarter century ago. I think it’s time that Rabbi Landes take a step beyond his comfort zone, and start reading some blogs. That might lead to some theological reflections worth reading.

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