One of the things I've learned and admired about the Jewish community in Kansas City is that, despite theological differences within it, there is generally an attitude that allows Orthodox, Conservative, Reform (the most populous branch), Reconstructionist and others to work and live together in relative harmony.
A recently arisen question is whether the newly formed government of Israel might allow a similar kind of respectful sharing relationship happen there instead of letting the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, be the privileged power brokers there.
This Religion News Service story delves into that difficult question.
As the story says, "Now that Israel’s new government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, includes a Reform rabbi but no Haredi parties, religion-and-state experts in the country are watching to see if groundbreaking legislation that many Israelis and Diaspora Jews have been yearning for is on its way."
The short answer is: Don't hold your breath. In fact, the coalition that makes up the new government is so diverse that it would not be surprising to see it fall apart relatively soon, giving the former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a chance to return to power, which he held for 12 years.
The story quotes Adam Ferziger, a professor of Jewish history and contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University, as saying he "believes the government will steer clear of major religious reforms, such as recognizing the authority of non-Orthodox rabbis, and instead chip away at the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly by offering modern Orthodox alternatives."
Here is a story that explains in more detail the rather remarkable power that the Haredi hold in Israel today.
There are, of course, theological divisions in almost all faith traditions, and sometimes those differences result in clashes that affect politics and culture in various countries. Sunni Muslims, for instance, rule Saudi Arabia, where there's essentially little or no space for Shi'a Muslims (or followers of any other religion, for that matter). In some states in the American South, the culture amounts to a landslide for Southern Baptists, just as Utah historically has been a place where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have held religious, cultural and political power.
So in that sense Israel is not so different from lots of other countries except in the details.
But I keep thinking what a great model Israel could be for the rest of the world if religious, cultural and political power were more equally shared among the various segments of Judaism represented in that Jewish state. And yet, in the end I must ask myself why should I expect that of Israel when a similar sharing of that kind of power is so rare elsewhere in the world.
(The photo of the Israeli flag here today is one I took in Caesarea a few years ago.)
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HOW CHURCHES WERE COMPLICIT IN MISTREATING INDIGENOUS CHILDREN
The appalling history of boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada that took Indigenous children (often against the wishes of their parents) and tried to turn them into white Christians finally is getting some national and international attention. As this RNS column notes, ". . .all too often when this conversation surfaces, it is directed toward the government and the harm done by those in power, while again and again, we have missed the role the church plays in the colonization of Indigenous peoples — including through boarding schools." The good news is that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is herself Indigenous, recently announced what the RNS piece calls "a new initiative to investigate boarding schools here in the United States, which will reveal a part of our history we seldom talk about in schools, government or churches." Let's be clear that we must know our own history not so that we can denigrate our ancestors but so that we understand how things got to where they are today and so that we can do better. The story of boarding schools for American Indian children is terrible. So we must understand that history.
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P.S.: A quick thought about Catholic bishops anxious to deny President Joe Biden Communion. Oh, come on. Jesus gave Communion even to Judas Iscariot. Notice, by the way, that one of the bishops pushing hard to deny Biden Communion is Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.