You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right, Finding Faith Without Fanaticism

Synopses & Reviews
Publisher Comments:
“We live in a world,” says Brad Hirschfield, “where religion is killing more people than at any time since the Crusades.” And when it comes to fanaticism, Hirschfield is not speaking abstractly; he once embraced it. As a young man in the early 1980s, he left his family’s upscale North Shore Chicago neighborhood for the West Bank city of Hebron, where he joined a group of settlers who were committed to reconstituting the Jewish state within its biblical borders. He carried a gun and, on one occasion, used it. He still doesn’t know if his bullets found their mark.

Now, Hirschfield has renounced all such rigid delineations of people into categories of totally right and totally wrong, entirely good and entirely evil. He seeks to build bridges among people of different faiths-and those with no faith at all. He is devoted to teaching inclusiveness, celebrating diversity, and delivering a message of acceptance-not as feel-good pabulum but as forceful and indispensable antidotes to the blind passions and willful ignorance that threaten us all.

Grounded in biblical scholarship and interwoven with personal stories, You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right provides a pragmatic path to peace, understanding, and hope that appeals to the common wisdom of all religions. Pointing the way through the continuum of conflict, Hirschfield addresses:

• the ways faith has many faces

• how justice can coexist with forgiveness and mercy

• how unity does not necessitate uniformity

• the ways we can learn to disagree without disconnecting

Though conflict is an inevitable part of life-a function of being connected to one another-Hirschfield is a voice of peace and reconciliation, showing us that conflict is also an opportunity to learn and grow and often to grow closer.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right, Finding Faith Without Fanaticism

  1. Review

    The author is an orthodox rabbi who serves as president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. His book tells us how he found faith without fanaticism and "you don't have to be wrong for me to be right." He then explains what this means in areas of conflict in our lives and how we can take "concrete steps to successfully address the continuum of conflict."

    The story begins with his family. He grew up in a middle class home on the North shore of Chicago. His family participated in the cultural life of the Jewish community there. He writes that "Synagogue was someplace where you went under duress and preferably not more than three or four times a year." He attended a Jewish day school and when he was in the seventh grade he became "religiously observant." He then chose to go to Ida Crown Jewish Academy, an orthodox high school. In his senior year he decided that he wanted to live in Israel and learn the Torah "full time" He was accepted at Yeshiva University, an orthodox institution, which a branch in Jerusalem. He writes that he was "returning to the Holy Land to live and reclaim – by any means necessary – the power and glory that had been Israel under kings David and Solomon."

    After he arrived in Israel he became a member of a "settlement community in Hebron which was determined to reclaim and settle "every square inch of biblical Israel." He writes, "I was home. I was a pilgrim who had finally reached his destination." He had come to Hebron during a time when Palestinians had attacked a group of settlers. Six men had been killed and many more injured. In response, a militant arm of the settlers' movement was formed. They made an attempt to kill several Palestine mayors and one day fired into the Hebron Islamic College and killed two Palestine children." He writes, "The deaths of those children cracked me open. I realized that perhaps I didn't have all the answers, and the beliefs that had been driving my life were deeply flawed. I found myself suddenly outside the fold of the settler community, and I felt desolate and just a little bit lonely." So he left the community, came home to America, went to college and graduate school and was ordained a rabbi "after being pressed and inspired by my students." Since then he has devoted his life to helping people understand that "You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right."

    Rabbi Hirshfield writes "We live in a world where religion is killing more people than at any time since the Crusades. According to the U.S. state Department, seventy to eighty percent of the world's conflicts and based on religion." The reason for this tragedy is that some religions and their adherents have a propensity for seeing life in terms of good or evil, right or wrong, me or you, for us or against us that results in conflict. It is in this context that the author offers a way for people to live through "the continuum of conflict" which exists in many dimensions of our lives. The frame of each chapter is a personal story of an episode in his life seeking for himself and others understanding, appreciation, and the overcoming of conflict. His chapters deal with "the many faces of faith, marrying openness and commitment, learning that we can be both victims and victimizers, recognizing the sacredness of all our feelings, making judgments without being judgmental, finding unity, not forcing uniformity, when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, learning that you don't have to disconnect because you disagree, talking about things that matter in the way that hurts the least, and turning our deepest dreams into everyday reality."

    Conflict between individuals and groups is a function of being related to one another. Understanding this reality, the author points to ways we can deepen and enrich our relationships, you and me, as well as our religious and political commitments, them and us. Every reader will be grateful.



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