Thursday, October 30, 2008

Edgar Bronfman, Sr. and Judaism

I've been in the transcription business for a long time and enjoy it [in general, not always in specific naturally -- nothing is always a joy] because of the great variety and because sometimes I feel I "meet" fascinating people. On the variety side, just this month, off the top of my head, I've encountered the US Army, ghost hunters, people dealing with Alzheimer's, autism, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the current economic crisis, legal suits about past discriminatory practices of a large insurance company and the Metropolitan Opera. And Edgar Bronfman, Sr., who is on my mind. He spoke at a public forum which I transcribed, talking about a book he's written. I had known of the Bronfman family, of course, for a long time, mainly the more flamboyant Edgar, Jr. And I knew that EB, Sr. was a great philanthrophist for Jewish causes. And I know about Seagrams, of course.

Well, at 79 (I think) EB, Sr. is taking on Judaism as it is known to most North Americans. He's written a book and he talks very articulately about his serious study of the Torah and Talmud texts. It seems to me, he has done what he can with his money to influence modern Judaism and now has, with a co-writer, and through public fora, decided to state his beliefs and reach a wider audience. Hurray for him. This is the wisdom of age, a man who has done well, now doing good so far as he can. Most people don't have his resources but all can have some of his ethics and, hopefully, some of his good sense.

Among the things he says in his book, and in speaking: He does not like and chooses not to believe in the god of the Old Testament who he called "a killing machine. mean, angry and vengeful." He believes in some creative god but not in that particular version of God. And he said, that the belief that the Torah was is the words of God is a bad joke that first got somehow perpetuated on the Jewish people and thence was taken up by the two other great monothesitic religions -- which has badly stymied any good sense that would have come about if people realized those books were written by men -- some of whom were inspired, but not taking direct dictation from God. He also tells the Jews to stop moaning about intermarriage. It's always happened and always will so instead teach our children what is beautiful in Judaism so they'll want to perpetuate it within whatever marriage they make.

These are highlights. I'll add the name of the book probably tomorrow as a quick search didn't produce it. It's a pleasure to listen to someone speak passionately about having arrived at a common sense belief after much questioning, much reading and study and discussion. A pleasure to listen to people with open minds, especially men who are not stuck in some life long repressive state of mind. His book seems worthwhile both for him to have written and for people, most especially Jews, of course, to read.

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