What Shall I Do with This People? by Milton Viorst
Jews and the Fractious Politics of Judaism

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"What shall I do with this people?" was Moses' exasperated question to God in Sinai, and it is posed once more in Milton Viorst's searching account of the crisis in Judaism today. Not since the destruction of the Second Temple, argues Viorst, have Jews displayed such intolerance toward one another or battled so fiercely over ideology. And these battles are not just intellectual exercises; they exact a fearsome price in today's Middle East.

Framed by the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Orthodox extremist -- an unprecedented outburst of violence among Jews -- the book examines how religious leaders through the centuries have shaped Judaism to serve their own political ends, often with disastrous consequences. Viorst vigorously critiques Orthodox Judaism's doctrines concerning territory in the Holy Land as well as on marriage, divorce, conversion, and women's rights, contending that religious law often departs from the teachings of the Torah and has, in fact, changed over time to perpetuate rabbinic power. In recent decades, he believes, the Orthodox rabbinate has grown so intransigently political that its ideas have sundered the Jewish people, challenging their identity and, perhaps, threatening their very existence.

What Shall I Do With This People? is both a meticulously researched history and a bracing commentary. Disturbed by the impact of intolerance on Jewish politics and society, Milton Viorst calls for an end to violence in the name of Judaism and offers a stirring plea for mutual understanding among what the Old Testament God called "a stiff-necked people." Amid the heat and noise of the Middle East conflict, his is a lucid, compelling, and necessary voice.


About Milton Viorst

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Milton Viorst has spent his professional life combining the disciplines of journalism and scholarship. He has academic degrees from Rutgers, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Lyon (France). He covered the Middle East for three decades as a correspondent for The New Yorker and other publications. He has written on the Middle East for the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, and his articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Time. He is the author of a dozen books and lives with his wife, Judith, in Washington, D.C.
Published October 8, 2002 by Free Press. 304 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

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A particular difficulty, in his view, is the growing insistence of the ever more powerful Orthodox leadership that “the Jewish state, of which it deeply disapproves, serve as arbiter of disputes within Judaism,” making of a secular democracy a counterpart to the Vatican that would sit in judgment...

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The distinguished Jewish historian Salo Baron once disparaged the "lachrymose theory" of Jewish history because it emphasized tragic events and a sorry trail of tears.

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