The shocking, tragic assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin exposed a deep fissure within the Jewish people. The dividing lines, which to some extent coincide with secular/religious, Orthodox/non-Orthodox, and hawk/dove distinctions, also transcend them, cutting to the very definition of membership in the Jewish people and the meaning of its covenant. There are conflicting, strongly held visions of Judaism and the Jewish future involved here that often appear irreconcilable.
As one response to the assassinations highly charged aftermath, the American Jewish Committee projected a written symposium of leading Jewish intellectuals and communal leaders encompassing a broad spectrum of ideological opinion. We invited sixty individuals to participate, hoping to ensure a relative balance across political and denominational lines and between Israeli and American Jews. To our pleasure, thirty-two accepted our invitation. They were asked to respond to the following questions: 1. Given the divisions within the Jewish people today, what is there that can serve as the basis for Jewish peoplehood? What can he done to strengthen the sense of a common Jewish destiny?; 2. The assassination demonstrates that incendiary words can lead to even more incendiary deeds. What can the Jewish community do - both in Israel and the Diaspora - to ensure that freedom of expression stops short of the demonization of the opposition?; 3. There are those who believe that Jewish religious teachings at times conflict with the principles of democracy in a Jewish state. If so, what steps can be taken to prevent each from seeking to delegitimate the other?