Jewish Dialogue 2013: What are the Boundaries and Limitations?
The second session of the Knesset Caucus for Israel-US relations, held by M.K Dr. Nachman Shai in cooperation with the Ruderman Family Foundation, was held on November 12, 2013 at the Knesset in Jerusalem. The session focused on “Jewish Dialogue 2013: What are the boundaries and limitations?” Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Rabbi David Stav were guest speakers. Rabbi Jacobs’ remarks began:
It is an honor to be with you today for this important dialogue. Let me begin by thanking MK Dr. Nahman Shai and Jay Ruderman for their invitation, and let me also express what a privilege it is to share this challenging discussion with Rabbi David Stav.
In this week’s parasha, Va’yishlach, brothers are reunited. After spending 20 years dreading the day when he will meet up with his brother Esau, Jacob is ready for the worst. But it turns out surprisingly well for Jacob as his brother embraces him offering gifts and kindness; it was not what he expected. I’ll not suggest who is Ya’akov and who is Esau today, but suffice it to say that when Jacob finally meets up with his brother Esau, he says, “Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God. (Gn 33:10).” That’s another way of saying: It is good for distant brothers and sisters to engage each other with open minds and hearts.
Twenty-two years ago I moved to a new community just outside of New York City to become the rabbi of a large suburban Reform synagogue. One of the very first calls I received was from the rabbi of the local Orthodox congregation, Young Israel of Scarsdale. Rabbi Jacob Rubenstein, their rabbi, invited me to speak at his Orthodox shul on Shabbat morning. I didn’t know him and I wasn’t sure if I was being set up as a korban, as a sacrificial offering. So I asked Rabbi Rubenstein what he had in mind. He said “I want you to talk about what you love about Orthodox Judaism and I’ll speak about what I love about Reform Judaism.” I asked him if he had any positive thoughts to share about Reform Judaism. He said “absolutely,” and sensing my apprehension, he volunteered to speak first. He spoke for 20 minutes about Reform Judaism’s openness, our commitment to tikkun olam, and the spirit of creativity that inspires our innovations. I was stunned by his moving tribute.