Arguing about Judaism : A Rabbi, a Philosopher and a Revealing Debate book cover
1st Edition

Arguing about Judaism
A Rabbi, a Philosopher and a Revealing Debate

ISBN 9780367334062
Published April 14, 2020 by Routledge
228 Pages

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Book Description

Arguing about Judaism differs from other introductions to Judaism. It is unique, not solely in its engaging dialogues between a Reform rabbi and a humanist, atheist philosopher, but also in its presentation of and challenges to the fundamental religious beliefs of the Jewish heritage and their relevance to today’s Jewish community.  

The dialogues contain both Jewish narratives and philosophical responses, with topics ranging from the nature of God to controversies over sexual relations, animal welfare and the environment — from antisemitism to the state of Israel and Zionism.

Although the rabbi and philosopher argue strongly, clearly enjoying the cut and thrust of debate, they do so with sensitivity, charm and respect, revealing the rich intricacies of the Jewish religion and contemporary Jewish life. While essential reading for those studying Judaism and Jewish history, the book aims to stimulate debate more generally amongst Jews and non-Jews, the religious and the atheist — all those with a general interest in religion and philosophy.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Judaism’s Diversity


1. God

2. Creation

3. Providence

4. Divine Goodness

5. Revelation

6. Free Will and Sin

7. ‘The Chosen People’

8. Messiah and the Afterlife


9. Jewish Ethics

10. Worship and Prayer

11. Holidays and Festivals

12. Men and Women

13. Sex and Marriage

14. Contraception, Assisted Conception and Abortion

15. Euthanasia and Suicide

16. Dietary Laws and Animal Welfare


17. Israel: The Promised Land

18. Israel within: Jews and Gentiles

19. The Diaspora: Jews as citizens outside Israel

20. Antisemitism

21. Anti-Zionism

22. Poverty and Inequality

23. The Environment: Jews as ‘Green’

24. Jews and the Future



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Peter Cave is Patron of Humanists UK; he lectures in philosophy for New York University (London) and the Open University, UK.

Dan Cohn-Sherbok is a Reform rabbi and Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales, UK.


Arguing About Judaism invites its readers to pull up a chair and join Cohn-Sherbok and Cave in a brilliant critical enquiry into the past, present and future of Judaism's diverse traditions of belief and practice. Their dialogues are not only richly educative, they are also, in an age of increasingly rancorous public debate, a timely master-class in the art of convivial disagreement.’

Melissa Raphael, University of Gloucestershire, UK

‘Among the many introductions to Judaism, this book stands out as refreshingly unique and challenging. With its conversational tone, the book holds your attention from beginning to end and as such, will be widely appreciated at both an academic and popular level. It is a welcome and long-overdue contribution to the ways we see – or are blind to – the challenges that Judaism faces - both within and without - in today’s troubled world.’

Martin O'Kane, University of Wales, UK

‘This conversation between a moderately "Progressive" rabbi, and an atheistical humanist philosopher, is a clear and helpful introduction to the varieties of contemporary Jewry. The two conversationalists together manage to disagree without rancour and without misrepresenting each other's position: an excellent achievement in itself!’

Stephen Clark, University of Liverpool, UK