Gary Schiff
Gary Schiff helps lead "Jewish Family Forever"

The Gap in Understanding “Pride” is an Emunah Gap

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate to have dear friends visiting from the US. The husband is close to the Reform movement and the wife to the Conservative movement. The husband told me about how great it was that the Reform camp where we used to work now flies the rainbow flag next to the Israeli and American flag and that’s what the campers salute. The wife acknowledged how the Reform movement was really ahead of the Conservative movement in this regard. As an observant Jew, I thought how unfortunate yet predictable, but simply said, “as you know I am on the other side of that issue.” Not wanting to sour the visit, we moved on to with another topic.

I began thinking that discussions on these kinds of social issues are generally unproductive. It is simply one person’s perspective on what is permissible vs another. As Rabbi Moti Berger reminded me, the actual foundational issue is one of emunah. In retrospect perhaps I should have said, “I am convinced that there is God that runs the world and is involved with our lives and I am also convinced of the divinity of the Torah. I have huge empathy for people who struggle mightily with these issues whether because of nature, nurture or culture. Nevertheless, I am convinced that God has expectations on how we behave. My understanding is that you are not so convinced.”

Perhaps then the conversation might have gone in a more interesting direction. They may have presented their doubts about God and the veracity of Torah and I may have tried to address them.

Those of us who have concerns about the direction of western culture in the area of social values, might focus less on the traditional arguments about age appropriateness or the societal benefits of traditional values. They may strengthen the like-minded but aren’t likely to provide new insights to those with more “progressive”views. Instead, it may be more productive to empathize with their “caring core,” and engage in a foundational religious “emunah” discussion both in private conversations and in the public sphere. Ultimately that may be where there is the best opportunity for understanding and appreciation.

Gary Schiff lives in Jerusalem and helps lead the group “Jewish Family Forever”

About the Author
Gary Schiff is a resource consultant connecting Israel and the US