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The Spirit of Judah L. Magnes Lives On

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Source: Wallwritings

Judah Leon Magnes (1877 -- 1948)
(image by Wikipedia)

A New York Times  column, "A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel," opens with an interview with Orthodox Jewish scholar Charles H. Manekin .

In his column, Mark Oppenheimer describes Professor Manekin as a "rarity," an apt description because in addition to his academic tasks, Manekin writes a hard-hitting blog, which he calls, The Magnes Zionist named for:

Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require a nation-state.

Wikipedia recalls Judah Leon Magnes (1877 -- 1948) (pictured above), as "a prominent Reform rabbi in both the United States and the British Mandate of Palestine."

Magnes was a leader in the World War I pacifist movement and was "one of the most widely recognized voices of 20th Century American Reform Judaism."

The spirit of Rabbi Magnes lives on in the work of Professor Manekin, who shares his "at odds with Israel" tab with a small group of observant Orthodox Jews interviewed by Mark Oppenheimer.

(image by New York Times)

Four who were interviewed are pictured above in a Times compilation. They are from left, Daniel Boyarin of Berkeley, Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, Rabbi Alissa Wise and Professor Manekin of the University of Maryland.

To paraphrase the urgent question from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, "Who are these people?"

The University of Maryland Department of Philosophy website offers this description of Professor Manekin:

"The focus of Manekin's research has been Aristotelian and humanist logic in Hebrew, the philosophy of Levi Gersonides, and the free will problem in Jewish philosophy."

What makes Manekin a "rarity" is that he is both an observant Orthodox Jew and an outspoken critic of Israel. The Times:

"There is no question that Charles H. Manekin is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath, refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him to take stands against Israel."

Manekin, 61, became Orthodox in college and an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. In an interview with the Times, "he denounced Israel's 'excessive reliance' on military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of the West Bank."

There is more on Professor Manekin as a modern-day Judah L. Magnes:

"Although not a member of the American Studies Association, he was pleased when the group voted in December not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions -- the 'academic boycott.'"

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)
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