Bintel Blog

Steinhardt vs. Steinsaltz: An Atheist Debates a Talmudist

By Daniel Treiman

  • Print
  • Share Share

I wish I had been there for this one: Jewish mega-philanthropist and avowed atheist Michael Steinhardt faced off in New York against renowned talmudist Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (who happens to be heading up a new effort to revive the ancient Sanhedrin).

Michal Lando of the Jerusalem Post gives the blow-by-blow:

…[M]oderator Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, pressed both participants to explain why there was even a need for Jewish continuity.

Steinhardt argued that the Jewish people should continue in order to preserve “Jewish values,” which he distinguished from Judaism’s religious aspects. “The overwhelming number of Jews alive today have no serious interest in their religion,” said Steinhardt. He said that could change if Jewish values were substituted for “that which is called religion today.” He mentioned education and tzedaka (charity) as examples.

Steinsaltz tried to reframe Joel’s question. He rejected the notion that Jewish survival was important because of what Jews have to offer the world. “Do we have to continue in order to do something, or can we continue as other beings [do]?” asked Steinsaltz.

The reasons to work for the continuation of the Jewish people, he said, could be compared those given for saving the dolphins. “Everybody should see that here is a species that seems to be endangered, so you should give it a better chance to survive.”

Steinsaltz said, as he has before, that the Jews were neither a nation nor a religion - they were a family. “We want to survive, first and foremost, because our family is a family… I don’t need to give any arguments that we are a light unto nations,” he said.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jewish Identity, Michael Steinhardt, Adin Steinsaltz

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
PETER GORE Fri. Nov 27, 2009

I was a atheist I was attacked by evil god sent me a angel to protect me and a jewish profit called Jesus appeared and let me touch his robe.But i could only touch it once over five years i have witnessed a great deal all i asked was my family are made aware of my knowledge and truth.God has willed this but EVIL will never give in I will after watch my back because i have knowledge of this evil.GOD chose the jewish people and he chose to help me an atheist.Now i am a christian confirmed in Christ and a seer AMEN.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.