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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. He/him. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist Aug. 26, 2021 2 min read

1/ These are two very solid threads by @Mandalorthodox about what is evidently a hot topic on JTwitter: a familiar (to me) inter-denominational fracas about authenticity and validity.


2/ I usually stay out of these discussions because of my heavy footprint: both as an Orthodox rabbi and a Ph.D. in Jewish studies & sociology. My dissertation deals directly with these topics. See especially ch. 1 & ch. 5 (Conclusion). 

3/ Yet I'll add two points from my expert perspective:
1) Many non-Orthodox claims are as polemical & doctrinaire as the O are presumed to be. Ironically, each denomination has orthodoxies. Saying "Jews believe X" (like "no afterlife") is actually just one side in a debate.

4/ Second point:
(2) "Orthodox Judaism was invented at the same time as Reform" is a tendentious claim because that makes sense only in denominational framework.

Denominations are a reflection of the host-culture of Protestantism. Compare to Jews from Muslim countries/cultures.

5/ Saying Orthodox is a reaction to Reform, to me, just means non-Reform Jews identified themselves within the denomination structure the Reform adopted because the host country viewed religion that way.

"Orthodox" was a term of convenience and polemics not nec. a new identity.

6/ This is as opposed to the Chassidic movements that were recognized as innovations & can be said to have been "invented." Note how that intra-religious debate yielded new identities in the same way. e.g. My ancestors were "mitnagdim" because the Chassidim defined them that way.

7/ But I myself don't think of what I do as specifically mitnaged or anti-Chassidic. I will need to adopt that identity when the topic turns to Chassidim/Chassidut. Outside that context, I don't use that term. Like any denominational title for me, it has situational use.

8/ Denominations also came from a culture that claimed religion could be separated from a "secular" mainstream.

"Orthodox" Jews usually don't see religion as separate from ethics or culture or nationality, but will adopt the terminology when under a Protestant hegemony.

9/ Using the popular contemporary term, denominational thinking is "Ashkenormative,"

In sum, I ask for people to recognize the nature of their claims and realize when they are engaging polemics instead of believing they are "above the fray"

10/ Above all, I ask for everyone to strive for Shalom and Achdut in Elul. We're in the middle of multiple, deadly crises. Our people are under physical and emotional onslaught. #Selichot begin motzei Shabbat & we use language of the community for a reason.

11/ As a family, we have our fights, but we also need to have each others' backs. Kol Yisrael Areivim ze-b'ze, we are all guarantors for each other. Like Boaz was for Ruth.

We are all in this together.

12/ #ShanaTova everyone.


please compile.

You can follow @JoshuaCypess.


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