The Guy Memo last April 26 recommended that source lists include Orthodox Rabbi Shalom Carmy of Yeshiva University and Tradition journal, also a columnist for the interfaith First Things magazine. This is important because Orthodoxy is more complex and more difficult to cover than Judaism’s other branches.
For the same reason, journalists should also be familiar with Meir Soloveichik, 41, the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City and director of Yeshiva University’s Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. Contacts: 212–873-0300 X 206 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. He has become a powerful voice in discussions of religious liberty, among a host of other topics.
The rabbi studied at Yeshiva’s seminary and Yale Divinity School, and earned a Princeton Ph.D. in religion. In 2012 he was a rumored candidate for chief rabbi of Britain and the following year assumed leadership at Shearith Israel, America’s oldest synagogue (founded 1654) and the only one in Gotham till 1825. He is a great-nephew of the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (note different spelling), the revered “Modern Orthodox” teacher.
Meir Soloveichik is most visible to the general public as the columnist on Judaism and Jewish affairs for Commentary magazine. A good sample of his cast of mind is the cover article in the magazine’s December issue headlined “ ‘May God Avenge Their Blood’: How to Remember the Murdered in Pittsburgh.”
Soloveichik observes that the customary phrase to mark the deaths of fellow Jews is “may their memories be a blessing.” But with the 11 victims slain at a Pittsburgh synagogue, this is “insufficient and therefore inappropriate.” He believes the very different traditional phrase in that headline above must be used when Jews are “murdered because — and only because — they are Jews,” whether by a Nazi, a Mideast terrorist or a Pennsylvania anti-Semite.
Jews “will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ” because a man who shoots up a synagogue “knows well what he does. … To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.”
The intent of the curse is “to inspire constant recollection of their murder, to inspire eternal outrage, on the part of the Jewish people — and on the part of God himself.” And so it has been since biblical times, he writes. In the modern era, and in ongoing discussions at the United Nations, we still see that “the nations of the world have not all celebrated the Jewish connection to God, to the Torah, to Jerusalem.”
Similar vigorous prose appeared in his November column, which took to task Jimmy Carter’s Baptist Sunday School classes, recounted by aide Stuart Eizenstat in his recent “President Carter: The White House Years.”
Soloveichik objected to Carter telling his class that Jesus driving money-leaders out of the Temple precincts, and proclaiming himself to be the Messiah, provoked Jewish leaders to seek his execution by Rome. The rabbi contended that Carter’s handling of these New Testament accounts was “a simplistic gloss on a subject that has inspired persecution, and murder, of Jews for centuries.” He said Carter’s “insensitivity to the Jewish historical experience, and his understanding of the Bible,” affected his Mideast policy, and “felt enormous relief that Carter was not re-elected.”
A major essay by the rabbi for the magazine’s October issue critiqued Israeli scholar Yoram Hazony’s book “The Virtue of Nationalism,” and combined ruminations on the Scriptures with the political philosophy of one Abraham Lincoln.
Though the name “Donald Trump” was not mentioned, Soloveichik argued that in a “time of national fragmentation and fevered debate,” the United States should “return to the Hebrew Bible in conceiving of what nationalism should be,” in line with Lincoln’s scriptural concept that Americans are God’s “almost chosen people.” Fascinating reading.