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"What shall I do with this people?" was Moses' exasperated question to God in Sinai, and it is posed once more in Milton Viorst's searching account of the crisis in Judaism today. Not since the destruction of the Second Temple, argues Viorst, have Jews displayed such intolerance toward one another or battled so fiercely over ideology. And these battles are not just intellectual exercises they exact a fearsome price in today's Middle East.
Framed by the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Orthodox extremist -- an unprecedented outburst of violence among Jews -- the book examines how religious leaders through the centuries have shaped Judaism to serve their own political ends, often with disastrous consequences. Viorst vigorously critiques Orthodox Judaism's doctrines concerning territory in the Holy Land as well as on marriage, divorce, conversion, and women's rights, contending that religious law often departs from the teachings of the Torah and has, in fact, changed over time to perpetuate rabbinic power. In recent decades, he believes, the Orthodox rabbinate has grown so intransigently political that its ideas have sundered the Jewish people, challenging their identity and, perhaps, threatening their very existence.
What Shall I Do With This People? is both a meticulously researched history and a bracing commentary. Disturbed by the impact of intolerance on Jewish politics and society, Milton Viorst calls for an end to violence in the name of Judaism and offers a stirring plea for mutual understanding among what the Old Testament God called "a stiff-necked people." Amid the heat and noise of the Middle East conflict, his is a lucid, compelling, and necessary voice.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Judaism History, Jews History, Judaism and politics Israel, Jews Israel Identity, Ultra-Orthodox Jews Israel, Reform Judaism Israel, Orthodox Judaism Israel