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Ari Goldman is a former religious affairs reporter for the New York Times, his position during the period of time he attended, on sabbatical from the newspaper, Harvard Divinity School. Not unlike covering business in the seat of American capitalism, covering religion in a huge, ethnically and theologically diverse city like New York exposes one to a broad range of views both across religious boundaries and within religions. His own upbringing and self-identification as an Orthodox Jew has enabled him to view from ‘above’ (so to speak) the divisions within Judaism represented by the liberal Reform, mainstream Conservative, and more orthodox practitioners of his religion, including the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews who are well-represented in New York. As with many Jews raised in the Orthodox tradition, Goldman was secure in his religious identification. There was no sense of uncertainty or alienation regarding where he rightfully belonged. As he wrote in the introduction to The Search for God at Harvard:
“The story of my religious exploration is different from that of some of my friends who were brought up in assimilated Jewish homes and then spent their adulthoods looking for their Jewish roots and the meaning of their religion in their lives. . .I never had to search. My parents gave me the Hebrew name Ari, which means ‘lion,’ then backed it up with the somewhat redundant missle name Lionel, just in case I needed or chose to avail myself of a Christian name . . . If anything, over the generation, my family – which found refuge in America from the persecutions and economic hardships of Eastern Europe – was becoming more and more confident of its religious place in the world.”
Goldman’s statement that he “never had to search” means precisely that: He was raised with firm convictions regarding matters of theological importance, and there was no reason to waiver from those convictions. He grew up with a strong Jewish identity, and knew where he stood.
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