The Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Interviews With Rabbi Edward Feinstein

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had videos of Moses Maimonides discussing his life and theology with us?  I want that opportunity with Rabbi Schulweis.”  So spoke Rabbi Ed Feinstein in 2008 when he conceived of a project to sit down with Rabbi Schulweis and interview him in a series of video sessions.  Rabbi Schulweis gladly accepted the invitation saying..”Rabbi Feinstein is the finest interviewer I have ever met.  He will cause me to discover things about me that even I didn’t know.”

The project resulted in 13 edited video recordings distilled from over 8 hours of interviews. They reflect the Rabbi’s thoughts on his relationship with his wife Malkah, the influence of his grandparents on his theology, his experiences in Berkeley and Oakland during the 1960’s, his views on the continuing evolution of Jewish practice, and his involvement in the evolution of an engaged Jewish community at congregation Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California.

Each interview dealt with a specific topic, and were recorded live.  The complete set interviews is available in the archive.  Here are links to each of the interviews, and a summary of the topics covered in each interview.

Chapter 1–The Family, Growing Up

  • America, Yiddishkeit and traditional Judaism meld in the Schulweis home/ First Rosh Hashanah in a synagogue /A Bar Mitzvah in 3 Languages/Yeshiva and university stories/ Surprise at Laguardia/Stephen Wise Debate

Chapter 2–Boxing

  • “Jews Don’t Fight”??/ Max Baer and His Magen Dovid/Max Schmeling: Early Righteous Gentile

Chapter 3–Influencers

  • Beyond religiosity: studying philosophy/The Burning of Mordechai Kaplan’s prayer book/Intellectual Courage: Heschel, Kaplan, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk/ “Where I was Wrong”: Writing on Buber

Chapter 4–Considering Conscience

  • Seudah Shlishit with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel/ Buber’s Critique of the Schulweis dissertation/ The duty to question the moral appropriateness of anything commanded

Chapter 5–Challengine Religious Authority

  • Challenging and interpreting scripture/ Homosexuality/Influence of Sidney Hook, Milton     Steinberg/Mordechai Kaplan and the reconstructionist concept/ Intellectual or Moral Honesty?

Chapter 6–My Rabbinic Education–Meeting Malkah

  • Quotational Judaism versus independent thinking/ “My hero was Cary Grant”/“…She read me a poem, and that was that!”/ Moving West to Oakland/ Introducing the Bat Mitzvah to shul

Chapter 7–Conscience (Part 1)

  • Voice of conscience: real or rationalization/Counsel of the kehilla/Where does conscience come from

Chapter 8–Conscience (Part 2)

  • Keeping conscience honest/ The need for courage and action as follow-on / Halacha should be moral/ What is halachic conscience

Chapter 9–The God within God

  • God has a conscience: Abraham, Jonah, the Akedah/Is “conscience” Jewish?/Yirat Elohim/ Is there a duty to obey

Chapter 10–First Pulpit/Prejudice

  • To Oakland 1952/ Involvement with NAACP/Seder in Haight -Ashbury or “Chad Gadya” to drums/ ”Flies up the nose of Pharaoah” (Jesse Jackson)

Chapter 11–Righteous Christians

  • Ben-Gurion and the Idea of Christian Rescuers/ Christmas Eve with David Brinkley/Meeting Hermann Grebe/Support and Big Surprise from Abe Foxman,ADL/Hakarat haTov

Chapter 12–Predicate Theology

  • “I had a difficulty praying…”/Speaking of Godliness rather than God/ Horizontalizing the Covenant/ The Problem of Theodicy

Chapter 13–Coming to VBS, Birth and importance of the Havurah movement

  • Arriving at Valley Beth Shalom and teaching at AJU (formerly UJ), HUC/ “The Psychological Jew”/The importance of building personal relationships within the synagogue