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


Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem