Rabbi Avi Weinstein

A New Understanding of Pluralism

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2009 at 6:06 am

As denominations become more meaningless to the point that they are not taught to youth for fear of boring them to an early grave–it is high time to redefine pluralism. Make no mistake, the youth of today have the lowest threshold for boredom known to humankind and they would rather have teeth extracted through their heads than be bored. Why should we define Jews by terms that become more meaningless with each passing day? Here’s a snippet on how to educate by redefining pluralism. It is a different understanding of difference.

Beyond denomination, beyond race and ethnicity and beyond gender, young people have different temperaments that need to be addressed. I believe that a curriculum must be designed that addresses what I regard as the basic Jewish temperaments: the religious (who may or may not be idealistic), the idealist (who may or may not be religious) and the pragmatist. These three temperaments, valuable as each is, do not naturally co-exist, and when untended can become disturbingly destructive–a phenomenon, we know all too well.

In my judgment, it is the challenge of teachers to identify a student’s best version of his temperament, and then to nurture all their students to the possibility of integrating who they may eventually become into who they are at the moment. This process, however, cannot be done in isolation. Each temperament must take account of the other competing temperaments with consideration and kindness. The Sacred must consider the Idealist, and the Idealist must consider the Sacred, and both must consider the pragmatist as the pragmatist must engage with the others. To paraphrase Kohelet, this three-stranded thread will ensure that a community will never unravel.

If you wish to read the rest of the article, click here.

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