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A conversation with Jonathan Neumann, author of To Heal the World?: How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel

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In his new book, Jonathan laments the twisting of the original meaning of Tikkum Olam to something complete against the point | Photo: Macmillan Publishers

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The face of Judaism in North America is increasingly diverse. But for those ready to cheer that statement, this also means a drift toward deeper division, even within the same cities.

It would come as no surprise that stepping into a service at a Reform temple on the Upper East Side of Manhattan would bear almost no resemblance to one happening at a Hasidic beit midrash (study hall) in Flatbush. When it comes to politics, the difference is also becoming starker.

Progressive Jewish congregations (Reform, Reconstructionist) are often led by rabbis who preach explicit political messages (almost always Leftist in nature), whereas in Orthodox ones, the mingling of politics and Torah is generally discouraged.

In his 2018 book To Heal the World?, British author Jonathan Neumann explored the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world). It is a cherry-picked expression found in the Aleinu prayer, and in the Talmud, and esoteric Kabbalah texts, that has turned into a pretext for conflating Judaism, with everything from environmentalism, to the pro-choice movement, and other leftist pet projects.

His book explains why the phrase “tikkun olam” has been twisted, to engulf so many issues that have nothing to do with its original meaning.

Jewishly, healing the world is done, “through prayer and fulfilling the mitzvot – the commandments.” And that “none of this has anything to do with politics whatsoever.”

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Neumann explained how Reform Judaism, one of the biggest adopters of tikkun olam, began with opening its doors to assimilation. The movement in early-19th century central Europe, he said, had a goal to “integrate into contemporary German society.” The movement’s leaders and adherents “still wanted vestiges of Jewish life” though it was to be kept out of the public’s view.

From there, he described Reform Judaism’s spread in the United States in the late 19th century, including the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform that – crucially – called for Jews to adopt a liberal attitude toward their faith.

But in the 20th century, as Protestant religious congregations adopted the leftward-leaning Social Gospel, Neumann says that their Jewish neighbours began to absorb both this, and secular left-wing ideas. Eventually the already-burgeoning progressive leftist ideas did crystallize in a Jewish packaging — the expression of tikkun olam.

The #Unsubjugated - To Heal the World author interview, Jonathan Neumann | Video: BOLD like a Leopard

“The first usages that I found were in the 1930s, but the term didn’t really get popularized until the 1980s by Jewish radicals. People on the far left — Tikkun Magazine founder Michael Lerner among others — did so much to popularize this phrase. They essentially alighted on a Hebraic phrase, in order to denote the kind of social justice, or political radicalism, that they were involved in.”

Separate from the social and political dimension of Judaism: where does the place of God and spirituality find itself within the belief system of the tikkun olam movements? 

Neumann explained that where the phrase appears in the Aleinu prayer it is clear that, “God takes the lead in establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth.”  But with the “new” tikkun olam thinking, “God has essentially been exorcised.” 

To hear more of the conversation, listen to the video on BOLD like a Leopard.

Ray McCoy is a freelance writer and investigative researcher from the Midwest. He has been published by The Federalist, American Greatness, National File, and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. 

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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