Letters to the Editor
It's unfortunate that David Klinghoffer sets up a number of straw men in his condemnation of my speech warning about certain efforts to Christianize America.
By pointing out the various Muslim anti-Jewish activities during the week I made my remarks, Klinghoffer suggests I'm focusing on the wrong threat.
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was the most important American religious event of the past year. For Christians, its effects were quite positive, as viewers already committed to belief in Jesus were roused to renew their faith through the heartrending story of the Crucifixion. For America's Jewish community, the effects of the film can also be positive, if we draw the right retrospective lessons not from the movie itself but from the controversy that still surrounds it.
I don't know how many times I've been in a conversation with a Christian who suddenly out of nowhere asked, "What do you think of Neusner?" They don't even feel a need to mention the man's first name, which is Jacob, assuming that as a Jew I would obviously be familiar with the rabbi and scholar who, for non-Jews interested in Judaism, is the No. 1 go-to guy.
When a Christian wants to know something about Judaism, which lately more and more do, a typical first course of action is a visit to Barnes & Noble, to the Jacob Neusner section of the Judaica shelves. His singularity is worth pondering.
After you've spent a couple hours puzzling over Daniel Matt's Zohar or trying to sort truth from hype in the teachings of the Kabbalah Centre, it's a welcome relief to turn to a lucid academic rendering of kabbalah. Arthur Green, a professor of Jewish thought at Brandeis University, wrote the introduction to Matt's translation and is also the author of a useful new book titled "A Guide to the Zohar." Published by Stanford University Press as a companion to Matt's work, this diminutive, accessible volume tells you everything you need to know about the Zohar -- its history and influence plus honest but easy-to-read crystallizations of some of the main Zoharic themes -- albeit from an entirely secular perspective.
David Klinghoffer's biography of the patriarch Abraham rides on a new wave of interest in the Bible, and a growing sense of the Abrahamic heritage that Christians, Jews and Muslims share.