One People, Two Worlds
A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them
Publication Date: August 26, 2003
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After being introduced by a mutual friend in the winter of 2000, Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch and Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Reinman embarked on an unprecedented eighteen-month e-mail correspondence on the fundamental principles of Jewish faith and practice. What resulted is this book: an honest, intelligent, no-holds-barred discussion of virtually every “hot button” issue on which Reform and Orthodox Jews differ, among them the existence of a Supreme Being, the origins and authenticity of the Bible and the Oral Law, the role of women, assimilation, the value of secular culture, and Israel.
Sometimes they agree; more often than not they disagree—and quite sharply, too. But the important thing is that, as they keep talking to each other, they discover that they actually like each other, and, above all, they respect each other. Their journey from mutual suspicion to mutual regard is an extraordinary one; from it, both Jews and non-Jews of all backgrounds can learn a great deal about the practice of Judaism today and about the continuity of the Jewish people into the future.
Ammiel Hirsch is Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union for Progressive Judaism, North America. His editorials, essays, and sermons appear in newspapers and magazines around the world. He lives in New York City.
Yosef Reinman is an Orthodox writer, historian, and scholar of international renown. His monographs and articles have appeared in many Jewish periodicals and his study of Talmudic contractual law is a standard text in yeshivas throughout the world. He lives in Lakewood, New Jersey.
"The dialogue between Hirsch and Reinman proves the essential unity of the Jewish people. While bringing vastly different approaches and beliefs to this wide-ranging debate on various aspects of Judaism and the Jewish world, they share the national Jewish consciousness and deep commitment to the heritage of the Jewish people that unites all streams of Judaism. If the State of Israel is to preserve its national Jewish identity, there must be freedom for all the main streams of Judaism to follow their beliefs and practices in order to achieve our common goal--to bring all Jews closer to Judaism and the Jewish people."
--Avraham Burg, Speaker of the Knesset, Israel
"One People, Two Worlds provokes, stimulates, angers, delights, and ultimately makes you think hard about what you believe and value. I found myself joining the discussion, sometimes agreeing with Hirsch, sometimes with Reinman, often arguing with both. This is Judaism at its best, a deeply felt dialogue about the things that matter most in life. It should be required reading for every Jew!"
--Francine Klagsbrun, author of The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day
"In an age where conversations among Jewish leaders of diverse denominations are increasingly strident, Rabbis Hirsch and Reinman provide a model of interaction and discussion that is exemplary for all who are concerned with the vitality and future of Jewish life. Each displays passion and considerable knowledge, and the reader will learn a great deal about the commitments and convictions that mark diverse precincts in the contemporary Jewish religious community. Most important, the reader will see that discourse among Jews can be civil even when disagreements exist. I recommend One People, Two Worlds enthusiastically!"
--Rabbi David Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
"A genuine contribution, One People, Two Worlds, is blunt but civilized, and covers all the major issues in depth, with equal measures of reason and passion. An important work for this year, and for many years to come."
--Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of The Book of Jewish Values and Jewish Literacy
"I have read One People, Two Worlds with interest. I was impressed by the sincerity of the discussions and by the respect shown by each disputant to his fellow. This lucid and brilliant exposition of Judaism should be utilized as a basic text. I pray that the collision of the two worlds leave intact the oneness of our people."
--Rabbi David Cohen, Congregation Gvul Yaavetz