So in my precious moments under a shady tree before lunch today at the ‘Tute, I decided to catch up on last week’s New Yorker. I was hoping to avoid any Jewish topics since there’s an over saturation of that here. With my luck, I opened to a piece about Israel. However, as I glanced forward in the article it turned out to primarily be about none other than Avraham Burg, a former Knesset speaker. It traces various events in his life including statements he has made, as well as specific references to his recent book “Defeating Hitler – Ã¬Ã°Ã¶Ã§ Ã Ãº Ã¤Ã¨Ã¬Ã¸” and the recent Ha’aretz interview about the book. (You can also read Forward Editor’s J.J. Goldberg’s article with reflections and interview).
In any case, while this all may be old news to some people, I felt the need to bring everyone’s attention to it. First, I’ve appreciated much of Burg’s writing over the years, particularly in Ha’aretz. Yay for people who don’t know if they are post or progressive or anti Zionist – why should we be forced to label ourselves? Second, I am amazed at his ability to piss off people at all ends of the spectrum, and even those not on it. This is a man who does not feel a single pang of guilt for speaking his mind while in a position of power. Third, I love it when the New Yorker speaks to me exactly where I am in my life. How does it know to do that?
Most importantly, I have to point out that I am really into how much he and I have in common:
Burg is a vegetarian, and fit; he has taken up marathon running. He is nearly bald, and wears a small knit yarmulke. Normally, this is the yarmulke of the modern Orthodox, though Burg seemed eager to emphasize his disaffection from all things Orthodox; he told me of his affinity for B’nai Jeshurun, a synagogue on New York’s Upper West Side where some of the rabbis are women and the sermons are as likely to quote Martin Luther King as Maimonides. “My alliance with the people at B’nai Jeshurun,” he said, “is much more immediate and intensive and important for me than my alliance with my nephew or my cousin, who lives two kilometres away in the West Bank, a fundamentalist settler.”
“I went on a very long walk on the Appalachian Trail. I went for five weeks and crossed half the state of Connecticut, the whole state of New York, and half the state of New Jersey. I saw maybe twelve people, none of them Jewish—for the first time in my life. I did a lot of thinking, and I realized that I had to change the pace of my life.”
Yes folks – Avraham and I are both liberal religious Jews who care about women rabbis and music in services. We are both physically active vegetarians who like to hike on the Appalachain trail in the New York/Connecticut region. Meant to be? You be the judge.