I, like many scholars, stand in awe of the accomplishments of Jacob Neusner, but his August “Letter From Inner Israel: Continental Judaisms, R.I.P.” seems unusually insensitive and bizarre. Neusner accuses continental European Judaism, in the aftermath of Nazi and Soviet barbarism, of insularity, suspicion, lack of learning, and lack of faith. I should have thought that a more compassionate and charitable understanding of these “remnants of Israel” would have been in order.

Neusner claims that French, British, and American Judaism does not demonstrate these negative traits. Where has he been? Judaism in these favored lands is marked by a rejection of prophetic Judaism’s outreach to the world in favor of a narrow rabbinical emphasis on ethnic purity. Indeed, rabbinical Judaism as a whole, whether orthodox or in its more modernist form, is a rejection of the prophetic universalism which eventually formed Christianity. Toynbee and Spengler were more right than wrong in viewing rabbinical Judaism as the “fossilized” remains of Syrian or Magian civilization, the legacy of having turned entirely inward. Where the challenge of prophetic Judaism and Christianity was loving one’s unlovely neighbor, the challenge of rabbinical Judaism was historically the preparation of a priestly people through segregation—but only provisionally, not forever—in order to bring the divine light to the Gentiles. Czech and German Jews today can at least be excused for their narrow defensiveness, but not the prosperous and secure Jews of Britain and America who are preparing for no priestly purpose as far as I can determine. Perhaps Neusner should stick to his more narrow scholarly concerns and not try to paint contemporary religious practice and belief with such a wide brush.

        —Norman RavitchProfessor of HistoryUniversity of California, RiversideRiverside, CA

Dr. Neusner Replies:

French, British, and North American Judaisms are so diverse that I cannot imagine which particular Judaism practiced in the West, among manv, earned Professor Ravitch’s wild enmity or why. But anti-Semitic bias against all Judaism and in favor of any Christianity does not begin with Professor Ravitch and, alas, will not end with him. All of this is ho-hum. The only interesting question his letter raises is, what in the world does his diatribe have to do with my essay? He’s just looking for excuses to advertise his hatred of Judaism. We have seen—and survived—worse.