Wednesday, July 6th | 7 Tammuz 5782

May 6, 2022 2:14 pm

Jews Against God Becomes a Regular New York Times Feature

avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times greeted Passover — which Jews celebrate by recounting how God took the Children of Israel from slavery to freedom — by publishing a guest essay headlined in part, “I Propose We Give Up God.”

Now the Times has doubled down on the theme, publishing a second guest essay, “How to Pray to a God You Don’t Believe In.”

I guess it’s nice to see the paper publishing Jewish writers wrestling with issues of faith. But as a percentage of Jewish Times content, or even of religion-related Times content, the anti-God ratio seems pretty high. That’s especially so for a religious tradition, Judaism, whose basic elements include the Shema prayer (“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”), the Passover Haggadah text (“We were slaves to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. And the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched forearm”), and the revelation at Mount Sinai.

Maybe the Times should make it a regular, standing feature, like the crossword puzzle or something. They could use the space created by the loss of the sports agate — baseball standings no longer appear in the newspaper — and use it for a daily “Jews Against God” essay.

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Reconstructionism, the Jewish movement that officially downplays God, is small as a fraction of the global Jewish population, but maybe it’s the New York Times core audience demographic? Otherwise, the volume and frequency seems a bit off-kilter.

Anyway, it would be nice to see the Times making some space also, at a similar frequency, for essays by Jews who do believe in God. Until then, my own view of these matters has been that if and when the skeptics eventually do revisit and rethink their views, God will still be there awaiting them, whenever they are ready.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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