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Orthodox or Not, All Jews Are Fellows

Alana Newhouse’s Roman Vishniac article inspires a rabbi’s timely sentiment

Alana Newhouse
April 23, 2010

Of all of the responses I’ve received to my recent article on Roman Vishniac, none will stay with me longer than the one that came over the transom this morning. In a beautifully written installment of his weekly column, Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel of America perceived what was, at least for me, the heart of the story:

Many Jews who define themselves as non-Orthodox or unaffiliated tend to view those who consider their Jewishness paramount as relics, either amusing or threatening, depending on the day and circumstance. And all too many Orthodox Jews, especially those of us in the more insular haredi world, can be oblivious to the large mass of our distant relatives beyond the physical and conceptual ghettos we inhabit. And when we do think of them, we often see them essentially as objects of “outreach.” A laudable goal, to be sure, born of the desire to share something precious, but qualitatively removed from the deeper recognition that they are worthy of our concern and love as fellow Jews even if they never choose to live like us.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Alana Newhouse is the editor-in-chief of Tablet Magazine.