CCAR March 2012 Newsletter - 1
C N F F R E N C E O AME C EC ET R A L LC O O N E E R E N C E O FF A M E R I C A N R A BBBBI IS S N NTRA A N R A
Publication of the Central Conference of American rabbis
אדר ניסן תשע”ב
איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים
Volume 59 – Number 6
FroM The PUBlisher & direCTor, CCAr Press Rabbi Hara Person • A Tribute to Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut • was privileged to get to know rabbi Plaut in his last active years. At that time, i was the editor in Chief at the UrJ Press and we were promoting the Haftarah Commentary that he had done with david sperling. We met when he agreed to attend a NATe Conference in Clearwater, Florida as a scholar-inresidence to help promote the book. While he spent as much time as he could out on the tennis courts, with some cajoling he would return to the hotel to sign books, charming and gracious all the while.
FroM The PresideNT Jonathan A. Stein
oes reform Judaism stand for a particularly liberal political point of view or is it a ‘big tent’ that embraces those from the more conservative side of the spectrum as well? This question, while not new, seems to have gathered momentum in recent years as reform Jewish dissent from government policies on israel has accelerated and as the political divide in our country has sharpened and widened. Note the following: • A december 2011 article in Tablet, an online magazine, asserts that the student body at hebrew Union College-Jewish institute of religion is overwhelmingly liberal, especially on israel, and that more conservative students feel there is a lack of openness to their positions. • When President obama accepted the Union for reform Judaism’s invitation to speak at december’s Biennial near Washington, the UrJ encountered criticism for having a democratic President address the assembly. • The invitation to republican representative eric Cantor to speak to that same UrJ Biennial was characterized as “pandering to ‘the right’” by some in attendance and UrJ President eric Yoffie had to go out of his way before Cantor’s talk to remind the delegates to be ‘good hosts.’ he didn’t need to remind the attendees of the same good manners when President obama spoke. • The religious Action Center, our reform Jewish lobbying and educational arm in Washington has been ‘accused’ of consistently adopting policies that are strictly liberal in political terms. Clearly there are any number of reform Jews who identify themselves as conservative and republican; some have suggested that their congregation’s dues to the UrJ not be used to support rAC. • Finally, there’s a joke going around that the democratic Party is ‘reform Judaism without the holidays’!
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during my time with the UrJ Press, one of my major projects was the revision of what we all know of as “The Plaut Commentary,” otherwise known as The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Unfortunately, by that time rabbi Plaut was no longer able to participate in the work on the revision. regardless, we were steeped in his scholarship on a daily basis as we undertook the work of the revision and it was an unbelievable experience. As we blended the work rabbis Plaut and Chaim stern, ,ז״לhad done on the unpublished one-volume revision of Genesis with the work he and others had written on the Commentary, there was a constant sense of awe for the enormity of what rabbi Plaut and his partners had accomplished, and the incredible gift they had given our Movement. My work here at the CCAr continues in many ways to be informed by rabbi Plaut’s groundbreaking work on our behalf. At this very moment, Peter Knobel and i are hard at work on a revision and update of The Gates of the Seasons. rabbi Plaut’s essay, Shabbat as Protest, will remain in the revised book—still as relevant and important as when he first wrote it. Whether it is a matter of interpretation, an approach to text, or reform Jewish practice, rabbi Plaut’s influence will continue to be felt in our publications and in our lives for many generations to come.
Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut was an unparalleled scholar, leader, and rabbi of our reform Movement and our People. hUC-Jir will be forever blessed that it had the z’chut to bring him from Germany to our Cincinnati campus during the 1930s and save him from destruction during the shoah. Born in Germany, he studied at the Universities of heidelberg and Berlin, and received the llB (1933) doctor of laws (1934) from the University of Berlin. he fled from hitler in 1935 for the United states, and found a safe haven at our Cincinnati campus, where he was ordained in 1939. he served as a chaplain with the infantry during World War ii, was present at the capture of the first concentration camp in Germany, and was decorated with the Bronze star. rabbi Plaut served as a rabbi in Chicago, st. Paul, and, from 1961 on, at holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. he retired from his post as senior rabbi of holy Blossom Temple in 1978 and was appointed its senior scholar. he published over two dozen books on theology, philosophy, and history, as well as works of fiction. his best known work is The Torah—A Modern Commentary, of which he was editor and chief author. Known as an uncompromising enemy of all manifestations of racism, he was the founder of Toronto’s Urban Alliance on race relations; a founding member of the North York (Toronto)
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR March 2012 Newsletter
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