(Cri de Coeur) Against the Reactionary Current in Contemporary Orthodox Judaism (Rabbi Elchanan Poupko)

It’s no news that contemporary Orthodox Judaism has cascaded into the reactionary world of rightwing politics now overwhelmed by MAGA and with no end in sight. This cri de coeur by Rabbi Elchanan Poupko posted here at the Times of Israel gives strong insider dissident expression against that political drift in America.

What caught my attention is Poupko’s keen attention to life and death. He identifies the coupling that is the rabid anti-Semitism in GOP-MAGA world now tolerated by mainstream orthodox Judaism + gun violence + the gutting of abortion rights + the fatal response to Covid:

The branding of extreme GOP politics as normative Orthodoxy while ostracizing everything that is taken for granted by Jews in every other Western country, such as the right to vote, the right to healthcare, and your children’s right to not get shot up in school or somewhere else in a mass shooting, hurts us all. If you thought that being a thoughtful armchair conservative who is “just concerned about the judiciary” from your home in New York, this week’s Supreme Court decision is delivering open carry handguns to a subway or street corner near you. If you are an Orthodox woman in Florida who was “just concerned with how woke the country has become,” the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and their promise in the decision to change much more will jeopardize the health, maternal mortality, and life expectancy of Orthodox women in red states in ways that most people in our community cannot begin to imagine. There is good reason for the double-digit gap between life expectancy and average income in New York and many other red states. Public policy, investments in health and education, and regulations that are shared with the rest of the developed world make a difference and have real outcomes.

The fact that Americans died from COVID at the rate of three times more than in other countries and that the Orthodox community has died at an even higher rate than the general American population, is another one of the prices we pay for political extremism in our community. These are not abstract discussions

By way of postscript and going forward, I will be adding links to articles about pushback within Orthodox communities to this rightwing political drift.

At issue is the direct threat to women’s lives. This one published here “Leading Orthodox groups cheered the end of Roe v. Wade. Many Orthodox women are panicking” concerns pro-choice modern orthodox women and splits within modern orthodox communities after the Supreme Court overruled Roe. There are multiple links all worth reading, including this one here by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a prominent report that aggregates orthodox women’s stories about abortion.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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