"Nathan the Wise": An Ambiguous Plea for Religious Toleration 

A new production of an old play stresses the benefits of religious tolerance. But the play itself suggests there might also be costs—and specifically for Jews.

F. Murray Abraham as the title character in Classic Stage Company’s production of Nathan the Wise. Classic Stage Company.

F. Murray Abraham as the title character in Classic Stage Company’s production of Nathan the Wise. Classic Stage Company.

Observation
June 29 2016
About the author

Neil Rogachevsky teaches at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.


Religious tolerance isn’t exactly popular these days. The ethno-religious violence coursing through and from the Muslim Middle East has been compared with the Thirty Years’ War, and for once the analogy does not seem misplaced. The major European countries swing between ultra-accommodating and ultra-suspicious or xenophobic attitudes toward the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, especially but not only the newcomers. In America, whose founders turned religious toleration into the natural right of all, significant cracks, mainly of a different kind, have opened in the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

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More about: Arts & Culture, History & Ideas, Religious Freedom