Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Jewish Perspective on a Famous Catholic

Senator Ted Kennedy died last week, and was buried on Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery near the graves of two of his older brothers - President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy. The entire nation mourns his death.
The story of the Kennedy family is a story of power and privilege, of positive impact and of serious imperfection. Because we live in a world today in which there are few secrets for people in the public eye, we know about JFK's infidelities, about RFK's children and their problems, and some with longer memories are aware that the family's fortune began in bootlegging liquor during Prohibition and includes support for Hitler and his policies in Europe during World War II.

And in spite of this knowledge and history, Senator Edward Kennedy is widely considered one of the best and most effective senators - one who has brought immeasurable good to the country and to its people. He has sponsored and help pass numerous measures to help the less fortunate in America.

The question is - how did he get from Point A (Chappaquiddick, Palm Beach) to Point B (champion of health care, "lion of the Senate") in his lifetime?

Marc Ambinder writes for The Atlantic. His article at the link here describes Ted Kennedy's life in very Jewish terms. I think it is interesting to read about this famous Catholic political power from the point of view of what Ambinder shows are very Jewish actions.

"Mark Lilla, in The Stillborn God, describes two forms of rebirth: a "Jewish" redemption where one's works and deeds promote a redeemable soul -- one that awaits the Messiah -- and a Protestant "Christian" redemption, where the expiation of one's sins are entirely the province of God, and not necessarily intelligible or accessible in our earthly lives. ... it is sufficient to say that redemption for Jews is an active, continuing process, one where doing good will hasten the coming of the Messiah.

In America, mostly Christian, we're most fond of spiritual redemption, but successfully redeemed politicians have tended towards the Jewish model -- work, work, work, work, even if, as Kennedy certainly did, they identified as a Catholic or a Christian." Marc Ambinder, The Jewish Redemption of Ted Kennedy, The Atlantic, August 28, 2009

For the Classroom:

Big Ideas:

  • No one is perfect
  • Actions are important in teshuvah
  • Teshuvah is a process with multiple steps
Essential Questions:
  • What are the steps necessary for teshuvah?
  • What evidence is there that Kennedy understood the process of teshuvah?
  • Is it possible for someone who causes another person's death to do teshuvah ?
Activities for Learning:

1 comment:

  1. this is a very rich article. thank you. looking forward to the next...and the next.