New York, February 8 - A leading figure in liberal Judaism is struggling to find corroboration for his sensibilities after failing to find modern progressive principles enshrined in the writings of the most prominent medieval Jewish thinkers.
Rabbi Mitt Kademm of Temple Now on Manhattan's Upper East Side could have sworn that self-evident liberal values already appeared in the twelfth-century works of Jewish scholars such as Maimonides, since everything he holds dear indicates they must be synonymous with Judaism. He told confidants that the relevant passages must be in there somewhere, and he just has to keep looking.
Rabbi Kademm has led his congregants in protests against President Donald Trump's suspension of entry permits for citizens of seven terrorism-prone countries; spoke out in solidarity with the women protesting Trump's election; marched with Black Lives Matter protesters; and participated in numerous other events identifying contemporary liberal sensibilities as core Jewish values. In recent explorations of the pedigree of those values, however, Rabbi Kademm has so far been unable to locate any statements that could be understood as endorsement of the progressive weltanschauung.
On the contrary, he notes, the most prominent exploration of core Jewish principles appears in complete contradiction to anything he believes, or exhorts his congregants to follow. "I was looking at Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith, and shuddered," he confessed. "I couldn't find racial equality in there, or multiculturalism, or diversity as a value in itself. I saw such unacceptable notions as the existence of God, the divine nature of the Torah, and anticipation of the Messiah. Worst of all, I saw not a hint of a post-colonialist approach, and this was a man who lived in the Middle East for most of his adult life. Did he not see the exploitation by the West? How am I supposed to call Judaism and progressivism synonymous with any sense of integrity and honesty?"
Moving forward or back through Jewish history has proved little help. "I went back to the Talmud, but my database queries have produced no occurrences of 'diversity' or of 'affirmative action,'" he reported. "The same goes for 'empowerment of women' and the term 'progressive' itself. And even though other, later Jewish thinkers disagreed with Maimonides on his formulation, I couldn't find a one that took him to task on progressive grounds. It may yet take a while to demonstrate that Jewish by definition connotes liberal."
Congregants have noticed the Rabbi's troubled state of late. "His heart wasn't in the ecumenical lox-and-bacon brunch this week," observed Christine Markowitz, a longtime member. "He wasn't really listening to Reverend Sharpton's sermon, I could tell."