Pressures exerted within Judge Richard Goldstone’s Jewish community in South Africa prompted him to stay away from his grandson’s bar mitzvah celebration. I assume that many people rubbed their hands with glee, yet I greatly regretted it.
This is because Judaism, the way I understand it, flourished and succeeded in periods when it was able to contain within it existential contradictions and huge disagreements; on the other hand, it deteriorated to great lows at times when boycotts, disputes, splits, and divisions characterized its conduct.
Judaism of boycotts, which withdraws into itself ultimately turns into a snail detached from anything that is different.
On the other hand, an open and confident culture that is able to contain various shades at its schools, in the synagogue, on the street, and in its cultural discourse is a much richer culture. A one-dimensional society that adheres to the “be like me or be nothing” dictum is a society doomed for oblivion. It features no forces for revival and no energy for dialogue.
However, a society that features wealth of expression and a culture of debate works out the disagreements, and the combination of my thesis and your antithesis gives rise to a synthesis that is in fact the next chapter in our culture.
There is no shortage of examples here. When the Judaism of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD was preoccupied with mutual assassinations of anyone who was not zealous enough, it prompted the city’s destruction and loss of our sovereignty. On the other hand, when Shamai and Hillel and all their students managed to build bridges and agreements on how to disagree, we in fact saw the birth of 2,000-year-old Judaism.
I see the satisfaction of the boycotters in South Africa, I’m attentive to their brethren in Jerusalem, I know their acquaintances in Bnei Braq and in Brooklyn, and I know that their path is not my path and their Judaism is not my Judaism.
Had I known Judge Goldstone, I would ignore all his positions and invite him and his family to celebrate the bar mitzvah at my home. I would extend invitations to all my friends and I’m sure that many of them would arrive and say that the kind of Judaism that puts a wedge between a grandfather and his grandson is not their kind of Judaism.
There are no boycotts around here. There is room for Goldstone at my friends’ and my children’s Jewish school. We do not always agree with you, yet the debate between us is part of our culture and of the clarification of the human and moral awareness that binds all of us.
So Mazal Tov to you, the Goldstone family