Open Doors

To the editor:

I find myself wishing I had some photographs of our most recent Shabbat dinners at Harvard Hillel to send in to the Crimson in constructive response to Daniel J. Solomon’s op-ed on Jewish Orthodoxy and Harvard. Perhaps there is some irony in our respecting ancient and Orthodox practices (shared by many un-Orthodox Jews, like myself) at Harvard Hillel by not taking pictures here on the Sabbath, because otherwise I would be able to show you—as the best possible case for thriving and relevant present-day Jewish culture at Harvard—the company I have enjoyed here on recent Friday evenings.  I have been at pains to make time to sit with our Orthodox students, who frankly feel neglected and underserved here this year, with some justification.

Three weeks ago I shared a table with Jewish members of the women’s rugby team who had brought non-Jewish teammates to experience the meal.  Two weeks ago I was sitting with the heads of our Reform Minyan, whose innovative approach to the confessional spirit of Yom Kippur was just covered by the Boston Globe.

It is possible, in the selfsame moment, for non-Orthodox students to perceive Hillel, and Judaism, to be dominated by Orthodoxy, and for Orthodox students to experience themselves as an embattled minority.  I know of no Solomonic solutions to the familiar blend of identification and antagonism expressed by Mr. Solomon, except to invite him, and all, to take part, actively and without checking one’s own identity at the door (nobody here will ask you to!) in our expanding and multifaceted community.  Jewish tradition teaches that were as many voices of Torah at Sinai as there were people assembled there—and, to continue as vital tradition, we still need every one.

Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, Ph.D.

Harvard Chaplain and Executive Director of Harvard Hillel