by Avi Kallenbach
I was asked recently in an interview if I was theoretically given a few million dollars to start a Jewish highschool what would I teach? This is (more or less) what I answered: “I doubt i’ll have enough time in the day to teach everything I want to teach, but I suppose it would be a full Jewish curriculum. Not full in the sense that many Yeshivot think that teaching a lot of Gemara is a full Jewish education, and not in the sense that some Modern Orthodox institutions think that teaching the philosophy of the Rambam is a full Jewish education. No, I would teach everything, Tanach, Talmud, the Rationalist philosophies of the Middle Ages like those espoused by the Rambam, and the more mystical philosophies of Kabbalah and Chassidut, I would teach the modern Jewish thinkers like Heschel, Jacobs, and Soloveitchik. I would teach Jewish law, ethics, thought, and philosophy from all corners of the Jewish world from all ages in Jewish history. From the most skeptical rationalists to the most far-out mystics. I would teach all of it.”
This all reminds me of a great quote that I saw in the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv in the name of one of the Chassidishe Rebbes (i don’t remember the source) it said “Can you really call him God if there is but one way to serve him?”
I was not privileged enough to be taught the full gamut of Jewish ideas during my high school education and was taught one philosophy which was labeled “Judaism”. Given the opportunity I would allow people to learn all of it, all of “Judaism” that is, in all its diversity and with all of its differences. There isn’t one ‘mesorah’ but many and people should be exposed to all sorts of different ideas, and not taught the one ‘Judaism’ that their particular institution has chosen”
Unfortunately I don’t have a million dollars to start my dream institution and as far as I know neither do my fellow writers, however we are privileged to live in an age where ideas can be distributed freely. Let’s think about Judaism as “diversely” as possible with our different opinions and different views. I hope that in some way this blog with its many writers will be able to present a diverse picture of Judaism that goes beyond one definition or one “mesorah”.