April 16, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Rabbi David Wolpe on the FAITH TOUR

Rabbi David Wolpe

Newsweek magazine has named him the “No. 1 Pulpit Rabbi in America,†The Jewish Daily Forward calls him “one of the fifty most influential Jews in America,†and Los Angeles magazine says he is “one of the hundred most influential people in Los Angeles.â€

Rabbi David Wolpe is young, vital and relevant. His congregation comprises some of the most high profile and successful people in Los Angeles. He is the author of seven books. He appears regularly on television, contributes frequently to newspapers and broadcasts and he is beloved and admired globally.

Daughter Samara, Rabbi Wolpe, and his wife Eliana

And faith is his latest project. Just released: Why Faith Matters.
Wolpe has a unique perspective on faith from many vantage points.
“Faith,†he argues, “is how we live.â€

“The purpose of this book has been to clear away the cynicism, to suggest that the usual objections to faith – that science disproves it, that it is dangerous, that it is irrational – are simply not true.† 

He asks, “Why are we here? We are here to grow in soul, to achieve goodness, to work for causes larger than existence alone,†he answers.

Rabbi Wolpe with daughter, Samara, in Israel 2006

Rabbi Wolpe is the son of a rabbi. Nonetheless, he suffered a crisis of faith growing up. At 12, he saw the Alain Resnais documentary, Night and Fog on the Holocaust. It left him thinking that if there were a god, this would not have happened. Perhaps that is why, in his latest book, Wolpe does not insist on making a believer of anyone. His only request is that readers consider the possibility with an open mind.

Why Faith Matters is a repudiation of secularism that comes on the heels of the release of Religulous, a movie by Bill Maher and Larry Charles and God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.  A bevy of new books and films argue that religion is responsible for violence around the world. That is not surprising in a post-9/11 world.

Wolpe takes on the “New Atheists’†who rail loudly against religion and faith, bringing reasoned and even arguments to the table. In Wolpe’s world, religion is the heart of community; violence is mitigated by faith. Faith and science are not at odds.

Wolpe has also faced serious illness.  Following the birth of their daughter Wolpe’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. That journey left a profound impression. “My wife’s cancer was so profound it defined our subsequent life, “ he said.

Ultimately, it became a tool he could draw on when he was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He underwent neurosurgery to remove the benign tumor and recently he has undergone chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Wolpe turned to his faith to help him through his trials.
His congregants, said Wolpe, are about half Persian Jews. He promotes not just tolerance, but understanding.  “The key to coexistence is not sameness but recognition of something greater than all of us,†he writes. Many Iranian congregants feel that the established culture in Los Angeles “has many serious drawbacks and dangers because they do not share the same values,†said Wolpe.

 â€œI ask parents and children if they have any desire to go back [to Iran]. They answer yes, to preserve the heritage. America specializes in making people forget their past.’â€

Last month Wolpe participated in Thirty Years After, an event celebrating the establishment of a strong Persian Jewish community in the United States following the rise of the Islamic Revolution. Over 30,000 Iranian Jews immigrated to the United States to escape a repressive, hostile regime in Iran.  Also present was former mayor of Beverly Hills and first Persian mayor in the United States, Jimmy Delshad.

For many, this flight to freedom left them feeling alienated and disenfranchised from their adopted land. Wolpe has been instrumental in helping his constituents embrace the community through providing a cohesive and inclusive community of faith.

Iranians were forced to leave their country because of a repressive religious regime. Such regimes create suffering in the name of religion. “Again and again in history, presumed believers denigrated teachings of peace in favor of those that countenanced brutality. “ But he asks, “What will happen when governments cease to be controlled by religious faith? Will the world grow peaceful?â€

Since the beginning of the Modern Era, the world has grown “more fierce,†he says, not less. But, he argues, “ The impulse to peace exists in religion, and in times of violence believers of goodwill can seek out that impulse and help it grow.â€

Now with the release of his book, Wolpe is bringing his arguments into the national debate. He has begun a campaign to rebut the many voices of popular culture that argue against faith, and that it is irrational, unscientific and even dangerous. “Inside of most human beings is the capacity for faith,†he said. “The deepest experiences of life are not the fruit of reason but of love,†he writes.

Wolpe will be debating author Christopher Hitchens November 12 on the subject of faith at American Jewish University in Bel-Air. They will be debating again at Temple Emanu-El in New York on October 29 and again on November 13 at the San Diego Jewish Book Fair.

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