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The God I Believe In, by Joshua O. Haberman

- Abstract

Recently retired from the rabbinate and various adjunct professorships in Jewish studies, Joshua O. Haberman, a scholar of 19th-century Jewish philosophy, has sought to clarify his own theological positions through “some serious discussions on religious beliefs with a diverse group of prominent Jews, not merely rabbis and theologians but a cross-section of Jewish intellectuals.”

The sample, though not scientifically devised, does exhibit considerable diversity: three scientists, two novelists, two philosophers, a hasidic rebbe, a hero of the Jewish resistance movement in the Soviet Union, a university president, a convert who has become a rabbi, a theologian, an editor, and a leading Talmudist. The Jewish backgrounds represented run the gamut from that of Philip Leder, the renowned Harvard geneticist, who places his Jewish education “on a second- or third-grade level,” to that of Adin Steinsaltz, the prolific commentator on the Talmud, who is possessed of an encyclopedic command of traditional rabbinic sources. As for the religious beliefs of the interviewees, these too are widely and interestingly divergent, ranging from the mystical Orthodoxy of Levi Isaac Horowitz (the “Bostoner Rebbe”) to the unyielding materialism of Leder, who thinks that “spirituality as we experience it will eventually be explicable in molecular chemical terms.”

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