Rabbi Hirschfield’s unusual past and his current position as president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL) informed and enabled the writing of this book, which implores people of different faiths to seek common ground. The roots of Hirschfield’s timely message are deeply personal. In his youth, he left his home in Chicago to join a group of militant Israeli settlers who believed that Hebron was part of the biblical home of the Jewish people. It was 1980, the Intifada, and some of his fellow settlers were attacked. The violent retaliation resulted in the deaths of two Palestinian children, a tragedy that shook Hirschfield “to the core.” It changed the direction of his life and became the backbone of his personal philosophy and his mission: cultivating tolerance and respect between people of different religions, railing against fanaticism, and acknowledging that no belief system is 100 percent right or wrong. His book includes biblical interpretations and gripping recollections of his interfaith activities, such as participating in the groundbreaking of a synagogue in Auschwitz and hosting a show on Islamic radio, a show that began as a post‑9/11 effort to increase understanding.
Hirschfield also addresses marital relationships, sharing the lessons he has learned from his wife, whose approach to challenge is radically different from his own. This discussion greatly broadens the appeal of this important book.