Berman’s Letter to the Editor Published in New York Times
On Nov. 12, Gal Beckerman’s book review article “American Jews Face a Choice: Create Meaning or Fade Away” was published in The New York Times. On Dec. 7, President Ari Berman penned a response as a letter to the editor in the newspaper.
Beckerman’s article was inspired in part by the recent shooting in Pittsburgh, which, as Beckerman observed, brought the American Jewish community together through finding meaning in the tragedy. The article presents Beckerman’s belief that if American Jews do not look into and adapt the Jewish lifestyle to be something meaningful –– however unorthodox in practice the adjustments may be –– the Jewish people will ultimately assimilate and disappear within a few generations.
Beckerman’s article furthered the ongoing dialogue in the Orthodox Jewish community about the state of Modern Orthodoxy. Following publication of the article, Jewish readers across the internet discussed certain questions: As a denomination that has always made great efforts to stick to tradition, rather than changing and choosing for the purpose of meaning, can Orthodoxy survive? With increasing changes and sub-divisions within the general Orthodox Jewish community, such as Modern Orthodoxy, Open Orthodoxy and egalitarian minyanim, are we already witnessing the downfall of Orthodox Judaism in America?
In the response, President Berman stated his opinion that “meaning is not a strategy, it is our calling.” While Beckerman believes that finding meaning is the way to preserve Jewish people and their survival, with the latter being an end in itself, Rabbi Berman believes the opposite –– Jewish survival is meant to serve the purpose of Jews continuing their search for meaning. He claimed that in today’s “changing world filled with dilemmas as well as unlimited opportunity,” Torah and tradition have even more ability than ever to provide essential meaning by “elevating our lives and enriching the global moral discourse.”