Pluralism Requires Sensitivity


Shifra Mincer’s op-ed piece, “Is Pluralism A False Hope?” (Oct. 12), highlights how attempts at pluralism can easily fail. Other models, however, prove that it is not pluralism that is a failure, but rather the implementation by those who have a one-sided view of what it is to be truly pluralistic.

Pluralism is an embrace of all Jews from all walks of life. Many people incorrectly assume that pluralism only obligates Orthodox Jews to show respect for the religious practices of other streams of Judaism. But for pluralism to be truly successful, the non- Orthodox must also find a way to show respect for traditional, Orthodox practice.

At regional and international retreats run by HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir (a program of the Zamir Choral Foundation) we have established a successful pluralistic environment. The Shabbat experience includes Orthodox, egalitarian and progressive prayer services as well as a mifgash (encounter session) between American HaZamir teens and Israeli HaZamir teens (most of whom have never been in a synagogue).

We conduct our program al pi halachah (according to Jewish law) in all public spaces, refraining from using musical instruments, writing implements and all electronic devices in public areas out of respect for our Orthodox teens although, in their own rooms, teens are free to use electricity or electronic devices.

The less traditionally observant teens who have traveled through the HaZamir program have gained knowledge and an appreciation of the observances of their Orthodox peers and have come to respect them.  Similarly, our Orthodox teens have gained equal knowledge and respect for the true spiritual commitment of many of their friends from other streams of Judaism.

To be successful, pluralism must reflect sensitivity and acceptance of all varieties of observance. Ms. Mincer’s experience was, indeed, unfortunate but not inevitable if true pluralistic principles are respected.