It’s an interesting article, @charlesneuman, although it looks like a number of the points it makes, even in the name of scholars, appear to be mistaken or unfounded. For example:
One might argue that belief in God was less central to Jews of the rabbinic era (the few centuries following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE) than it was to Jews in the Middle Ages, not because God was less important, but because belief itself was. Though Jews tended to believe in certain shared concepts–e.g. one God who led them out of Egypt, the eventual messianic redemption–official beliefs or dogmas were not formulated until the Middle Ages.
I’m not sure where he gets that assertion from. The formulation of official beliefs in list form may have been a focus of medieval literature, but the sources are clearly there in rabbinic literature. One of the more clear examples that sprang to mind is in Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1 -
All Jews have a share in the World to Come, as it says, (Isaiah 60:21), “Thy people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” These have no share in the World to Come: One who says that [the belief of] resurrection of the dead is not from the Torah, [one who says that] that the Torah is not from Heaven, and an Apikoros.
Rabbinic Judaism clearly says here that having certain beliefs or lacking certain beliefs can distance a Jew so much from the essence of Judaism that he loses a share in the World to Come, which “All Jews have” - even those who are steeped in sin. Theft, murder, eating non-kosher food, desecrating the Shabbos: none of those deny a Jew a share in the World to Come. How “large” that share will be is certainly connected to his actions, but the share is there.
But according to the Sages as stated in this mishnah, not believing that Torah was given by G-d (and if you don’t believe in G-d, you certainly don’t believe that He is the source of the Torah) puts a Jew into an entirely different category. (And “Apikoros” may refer directly to one who denies G-d, although there are several different opinions among the commentators as to exactly which problematic belief “Apikoros” refers to.)
He’s still a Jew - and he still has the potential to return to the source and reconnect. And Jews and Judaism certainly hope that he does. There’s a quote from Ezekiel 18:23/32 - “Do I desire the death of the wicked? says G-d. When he repents from his ways, he shall live… For I do not desire the death of the one who is deserving of death, says G-d. Repent - and live.”
We very much hope he reconnects. But until that happens, the denial of these specified fundamental beliefs ruptures his connection to Judaism and the Jewish people in a very fundamental way.
I’d be happy to hear your thoughts, @charlesneuman - or anyone else!