Notes from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield talk 5/25/11

Book – You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right:  Finding Faith Without Fanaticism

“Jews should use the wisdom we possess for the betterment of the human race”

For God’s Sake – Brad’s Washington Post column

“We live in one of the most polarized times… Religion is killing more people now than any times since the Crusades… Will religion warm our home and cook our food, or will it burn down the house?… The more identified a country is with religion, the more likely it is to be at war…”

Two very different books were best-sellers at the same time:

God Delusion – Dawkins

Your Best Life Now – Joel Osteen

“Experiment – neither side can talk about the other disparagingly –> talk radio and cable tv would go silent”

“Problem when you focus on the other being broken, rather than focusing on yourself”

“The only way to solve the big picture is through one human relationship at a time”

Letter to Brad “Evangelical Christian open and close-minded Filipinos… Members of our church recommended your book… Feel funny writing you, a rabbi… Only Jew we knew growing up in the Phillipines was Jesus…”

Syracuse cab ride story – every square inch covered with Jesus love you stickers, bibles hanging from the door frame… Cabbie asked “What do you do?  What do you think of Jesus?”. Brad said “Don’t believe he’s God’s son, but people can learn a thing or two from him.”. Cabbie asked “How could you believe the second but not the first?”  Brad answered “I guess you don’t have to be wrong for me to be right.”Inflatable Games

Cabbie “Wife hasn’t been saved like me, pastor said she can’t be saved and I should find another wife…” Brad “You’ve been doubly blessed, saved by your wife and faith – I don’t see any reason you should give up on either.”

“At no point did either I or the cabbie back away from our beliefs… It’s not zero sum…”

Egypt story – Hamdi journalist of Islamic press wanted Brad to visit his parent’s home to show why he’s proud to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood… Extra security arranged… 8 Christians, 2 Muslims, and a Jew… Picked up Hamdi and Islamist politicians… Hamdi’s father ran to embrace Brad, saying in Arabic “American rabbi!”… On wall of room was picture of Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock, with smiling faces of founders of Hamas who killed one of Brad’s students… Poster said “Take heart Jerusalem, the end of your suffering is coming… Liberation is near…” “But nowhere in Egypt was I treated better…” Hate and anger were real, and so was the honesty, compassion and hospitality…

Story about parents – father didn’t want pork and shellfish, and also asked not to have Christmas tree in house after they got married… Proudly Jewish but not ritually… Brad asked for different dishes so he could keep kosher… Mother said no one ate on different plates in their house and had the home koshered…

“It is possible to have faith without fanaticism…”

“A fool would tell you not to feel bad about dashed hopes, but a fool would also tell you to stop trying…  ask yourself ‘Where can I go to get the strength to keep trying?’ “

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