Autism, inclusion, and theodicy

(I will freely admit that this post is largely an emotional reaction. Tough. Go read something else if that bothers you.)

The “Daily Reyd” feature at Rabbi Gil Student’s Torah Musings blog has a link to an article at the Orthodox Union’s website. Titled “The Gabbai With Autism: A Living Lesson In Inclusion,” the article talks about Eli Gorelick, a young man with autism who serves as one of several gabbaiim in his congregation.

I will first say that the synagogue’s ability to adapt to Eli and to effectively welcome him to lay leadership is–or should be, anyway–a model for inclusion for those able and willing to serve with accommodation. I have no quibble at all with any of that, and it’s precisely that kind of thing that we’re missing in so many other places.

My problem, of course, is going to be the theodicy piece. Eli’s father is himself a rabbi, and when one of Eli’s siblings asked his father why God made Eli the way He did, the answer was, “Hashem wanted us to do chesed for Eli.”

And that, dear reader, is when I decided it was time to take the day’s lunch break.

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Why a Manual for Creating Atheists Isn’t

I’m hoping to publish in another forum a more detailed review of Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists, so my comments here will not be especially comprehensive. But I was, in some important ways, rather disappointed with the book, and I want to express a bit of that disappointment here.

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How soon we forget.

Over at The Atheist Rabbi, Rabbi Jeffrey Falick has a post addressing the sudden realization of Steven Cohen and Kerry Olitzky that maybe there’s a way to welcome people to the Jewish community and Jewish identity without forcing them to undergo a halakhic conversion.

Hey, I know some people who’ve advanced that position for years!

I won’t add much to Rabbi Falick’s observations, except to say this: something like this has existed for at least two thousand years: the ger toshav. Continue reading

I’m sympathetic, but unconvinced

Tablet Magazine has an extended article about David Silverman, who heads up American Atheists. The topic of the article: why Silverman insists that atheism and Judaism are incompatible.

I’m sympathetic to his position. But I don’t agree.  Continue reading