My problem with Rabbi Stern’s comments is that, while acknowledging the propensity for violence among the ultra-Orthodox, he dismisses it as a relatively minor phenomena in comparison to extremist violence by Muslims and Christians (though I am not sure of what recent Christian violence he is referring to unless it is the Serb slaughter of the Croats over a decade ago). In a world of rising anti-Semitism, I can understand his defensiveness. However, I would find it more commendable if he condemned such violence without apology or defensiveness, tried to uncover why it is that support for such violence is spreading within Orthodoxy, and why moderate Orthodox leaders like him are not campaigning passionately and actively against it. It is what we hope from Muslin religious leaders. Ultimately, it is only the willingness of religious leaders to condemn the violence of their co-religionists that helps stem the tide of the spread of s uch ha tred.
The passing this week of Teddy Kolleck, former mayor of Jerusalem who spent his life building a city that showed respect and tolerance for different religious traditions and perspectives, is a sad reminder of how far we are from the dream of a Jerusalem at peace and the ability to build a world in which we share a mutual respect for our differences engendered by realizing we worship the same God.