South Charlotte

Discussions to focus on fundamentalism in various faiths

Rabbi Jonathan Freirich
Rabbi Jonathan Freirich COURTESY OF TEMPLE BETH EL

Temple Beth El will spend three evenings this season examining religious fundamentalisms.

“We thought the topic was very current and interesting,” said Jonathan Freirich, associate rabbi of Temple Beth El. “Religion didn’t start out as fundamentalism. It’s a response to the modern world.”

Fundamentalism refers to strict, literal interpretation of Biblical scripture or other religious tenets.

Starting Nov. 11, Temple Beth El will host “Religious Fundamentalisms” as part of its Temple Beth El University. The three-part series, which is open to the community, also will be held on Nov. 18 and Dec. 2.

The two-hour sessions will begin at 7 p.m. with a talk from a religious scholar followed by audience questions and discussion.

Freirich will open the series with a discussion about the origins of Jewish fundamentalism, including orthodoxy in the 19th century and today’s religious Zionist movement.

On Nov. 18, Freirich will lead a discussion on Christian and Jewish fundamentalists in the 21st century with the Rev. Nancy Ellett Allison, senior pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ.

They will focus on Christian fundamentalism and American thought patterns that have led to it, including Messianism, end of days and Christian Zionism, Freirich said.

Jonathan Berkey, a professor of history at Davidson College, will discuss Muslim fundamentalism past and present on Dec. 2. Berkey’s teaching at Davidson covers Middle Eastern history since the rise of Islam.

Freirich said he hopes the series will help people see that studying the intricacies and complexities of beliefs is worthwhile.

“Often, we look at other people and we tend to categorize them one way or another,” he said. “Fundamentalism itself is complicated, and we often identify people who are extremists of one type or another as ‘not us.’ ”

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer:

Want to go?

The community is invited to “Religious Fundamentalisms,” which will be held at Temple Beth El. The series costs $36 for Temple Beth El members and $54 for nonmembers. Cookies and refreshments will be served at each session.

To register, visit For more information, contact Freirich at