Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox-Conservative Divide

The rabbinic scholar Saul Lieberman, who died in 1983, was famed for his comprehensive knowledge of talmudic literature, his meticulous scholarship, and his synthesis of traditional learning with modern academic methodology. Spending most of his adult life as a professor at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, he also maintained warm relations with leading Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis. Recent attempts to classify him in today’s denominational terms, argues David Golinkin, are both misguided and groundless:

Lieberman did not consider himself “Conservative.” However, neither did he consider himself “Orthodox.”. . . Lieberman meant exactly what he said in his letter to [the Israeli newspaper] Maariv in 1974: “I teach Torah to the Jewish people and I don’t care much about politics—that is: I am neither ‘Orthodox’ nor ‘Conservative.’ There are ‘Conservative’ rabbis who are halakhic and there are ‘Orthodox’ rabbis who are not.” Lieberman did not care about labels but rather about substance, and in this he was a true disciple of Rabbi Judah the Prince who said . . . “do not look at the vessel, but rather at its substance.”

Read more at Seforim

More about: Conservative Judaism, Jewish Theological Seminary, Judaic Studies, Orthodoxy, Saul Lieberman, Talmud


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy