waiting for god-oh!… a matter of memory

What is a jew? The question is more easily posed than responded to, or at least those responses differ in an agree to disagree manner. That could be predicted in avance, given that Jewish history has never conformed to reasonable expectation. The key word being reasonable….

The grafting of traditional Jewish messianic hopes for a return to Zion onto the nineteenth-century concept of the nation state, which produced political Zionism, was a response to anti-Semitism by jews who had little or no, that is nominal interest in the Jewish religion. Today, many jews, both agnostic and assimilated, maintain that with the coming of the state of Israel, there is no loner any reason for the keeping of a separate Jewish identity of the Diaspora. The existence of the jewish people has been ensured; a center from which a jewish culture can be reborn has been provided. Others believe that, Israel or no, total assimilation is both inevitable and desirable; the view by the likes of  Arthur Koestler.

—Looking at Jewish culture and society, one is struck by the variety of practices and beliefs, many of which are tolerant and progressive. Looking at Jewish institutional life, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Judaism has, in fact, succumbed to a kind of double-edged fundamentalism.
The first edge wedged in Judaism’s tender soul comes from the coercion of an aggressive and belligerent rabbinic establishment. This Orthodox fundamentalism aspires to freeze Judaism in the moment before the explosion of the Enlightenment took us into the modern age. As it is, Orthodoxy can never progress. And the real trouble comes from the fact that, unfortunately, in Israel it can legislate and bring coalitions to their knees.
The second blade is eschatological and very vocal. There are large swathes of Jews who consider themselves national activists—their activism: the settling of the Land of Judea and Samaria and the displacement (if possible and when “necessary”) of its “other” inhabitants, namely the Palestinians.
For decades our broader Jewish culture has been trapped between these two dark fundamentalist forces—call them a rock and a hard place. They have institutional and political power through the rabbinate and through the religious parties in the Knesset. The Orthodox establishment and West Bank settlers have kidnapped and abused the Jewish-democratic state.
But neither of these fundamentalisms—evil as they are—are the worst kind. Our image of fundamentalism (think Al-Qaeda—crazed religious and nationalist zealots) is easy to fight—it’s right in front of us and it screams “death to the West”. But the worst kind of Jewish fundamentalism is insidious. It looks nothing like Al-Qaeda—it’s not a crusade against the West or a campaign for theocracy, so often we don’t see it and fail to protect against it because it maintains an oddly democratic facade. —Read More:http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/869/print/all image:http://www.hollywoodmemorabilia.com/authentic-memorabilia/eric-kimmel-james-woods-alan-arkin-movie-press-photo.html

Others again hold that Judaism is just a religion and has nothing to do with the larger matters of culture and community, and even less with questions of nationality. And still others return deliberately to the habits of the ghetto.

Yet, there is another point to consider. Zionism was the invention of cultivated European jews who wanted to create in Palestine a modern jewish national state modeled on the emancipatory principles, secularist in nature, of the Enlightenment and liberal democratic ideals. But, the native born Israeli is less and less likely to regard himself as a European and more and more as some sort of new hybrid entity within a middle eastern context. Clearly, the poor-cousin mentality to Western Europeans towards the pverty ridden jews of the eastern Shetls and the Sephardic jews of the Arabian peninsula have little attachment to Voltaire, Kant, and John Stuart Mill, and the particular breed of secular racism they embodied.

—The simplest explanation of the amateurish nature of Meyer’s candidacy is that she is an amateur politician. But writing in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Allison Yarrow offered a different hypothesis: that “the political stories about Meyer are painful” because she is “a crash course on the complications of being a single young woman in the modern Orthodox world.”
This message seemed to resonate strongly with other journalists, like those at the popular feminist blog Jezebel, which quickly picked up the piece and highlighted Yarrow’s central point: “That no woman has emerged as a political candidate [in New York], despite the Orthodox community’s growing size and political sway, is largely a result of women in the community being relegated or elevated, depending on one’s perspective, to a domestic role—expected to dress modestly, live quietly, and draw little attention to themselves in the outside world. Some women won’t shake the hands of men,” Yarrow wrote. “Others refuse to speak in gender-mixed company, be photographed, or wear a color as flashy as pink.” Yarrow also expressed astonishment that Meyer’s candidacy had not elicited “blowback” from Orthodox leaders, dubbing her “The Unorthodox Candidate.”
But this sort of blanket generalization about Orthodox Jewish women is profoundly misleading and fails to take into account the differences within Orthodoxy—which are so vast that to ignore them is to completely misunderstand Mindy Meyer’s story. The fact that Meyer is Orthodox, unmarried, in law school, and pursuing a public career is only surprising if one is woefully ignorant of the impressive professional achievements of contemporary Modern Orthodox women.—Read More:http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/109721/dont-know-much-about-orthodoxy

These latter groups, Russians, Easternsers and Arab jews are in some ways more primitive, more fundamentalist, less complicated people, much more like the original jews than the kind of Westernized Jewish intellectuals who play so important a role in running Israel today, and effectively control the business community and the state apparatus. As these new elements become dominant in Israel through demographic change and social-economic mobility, the links between the Westernized jew and israel will be weakened, as we have seen, or rather polarized between a left-secular liberalism and new strains that risk supplanting the template of traditional Zionism. As this process unfolds, a chunk of jews outside Israel reinforces assimilation and a kind of jew arises in Israel, and to some degree in the Diaspora that develops Jewish culture in quite unexpected ways. But why be surprised or concerned? After all, Jewish history has never conformed to reasonable expectation.

John Phillips photography. 1948.—Contemporary Jewish life is replete with examples of political extremism and religious fundamentalism. Before we despair, however, we would do well to recall that Judaism’s instinctive moderation has long been one of its most salient characteristics. In Jewish history’s fierce ideological battles, moderating middles have typically emerged victorious.
In 2010, an Israeli rabbi ruled that Jews ought not to sell or rent property to Arabs1 and two other rabbis published a book, “Torah Ha-Melekh” (The King’s Law), arguing that Israeli soldiers could intentionally kill Palestinian children. But upon learning of the ruling on not renting property to Arabs, rabbis around the world responded with disgust. When the book was published, the authors were almost prosecuted for incitement.
Two prime factors have nourished Judaism’s long-standing tendency towards moderation: a vigorous intellectual tradition, and openness to the non-Jewish world. The Babylonian Talmud, the foundation of yeshiva study even today, is an intellectually rigorous legal text and, at the same time, profoundly aware of and influenced by the Greek world around it. Not every Talmudic utterance is the epitome of moderation, of course, but the intellectual world that the Talmud bequeathed has instilled a greater commitment to moderation than many people imagine.
The Talmud was itself a product of the victory of moderation. Around the time of Jesus, with the Temple cult in crisis, proto-Christians left the Jewish fold, while Sadducees argued that the Temple was the sine qua non for Jewish life. But what emerged was rabbinic Judaism, a re-crafted religion that could flourish without the Temple while still committed to millennia of tradition.
This tradition of continuity and accommodation has continued. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe witnessed widespread Jewish conversion to Christianity among German Jews and a resolute resistance to modernity among Hungarian rabbis. But Reform and Conservative Judaism also emerged, both of them attempts to navigate a moderate path between apostasy and fundamentalist ossification. Today, the centre of diaspora life has shifted from Europe to America. And while there is extremism in American Judaism, too (the vitriol that characterises conversation about Israel is a prime example), there are also rich academic, literary, artistic and liturgical traditions that are passionate and moderate, learned and open. —Read More:http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/869/print/all image:http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/869/print/all

And yet, with the diversity, geographical and ideological that characterizes Judaism, an indefinable sense of unity remains. This unity is certainly not the product of common racial characteristics, nor is it the product of common culture, however widely culture may be defined. It has something to do with persecution and something to do with pride.

It has everything to do with history, with the ability of Judaism to adapt to adversity in the Diaspora, and with the consequent survival of Jewish communities u

conditions of discrimination, persecution and temptation to convert to the majority faith. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning,” exclaimed the psalmist, recalling how in Babylon he had wept for his lost homeland. Jewish unity is a matter of memory, conscious or unconscious. When the memory goes, the unity will go.

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