Sunday, July 8, 2007

Jewish people? What Jewish people?

Haaretz :
The headline of the Commentary magazine article is indeed provocative: Whatever Happened to the Jewish People. It was written by Steven Cohen, research professor of Jewish social policy at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and Jack Wertheimer, provost and professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary." ...

The basic argument is straight forward and quite simple: "It is almost inconceivable that the American Jewish community could muster the will to mount [a] massive a show of unity," the authors write. Based on data they suggest that "something vital has changed a weakened identification among American Jews with their fellow Jews abroad, as well as a waning sense of communal responsibility at home."

They remind us, toward the end of the article, that the "once upon a time" slogans of the United Jewish Appeal were "we are one" or "keep the promise" - making the case for Jewish unity and peoplehood. But today, this message was abandoned for the likes of "live generously: it does a world of good," proving that "the once-forceful claims of Jewish 'peoplehood' have lost their power to compel." ...

Why does this matter? In what sense is it "bad"? Cohen and Werheimer have an interesting answer - which they describe as "unabashedly essentialist" that is also simple. Caring for the Jewish people is, in fact, being Jewish. "Jews are not solely the agglomeration of adherents of a particular faith, each seeking personal meaning; they are a people whose primary mark has been the conviction of a uniquely corporate role in history. ...

1 comment:

prof said...

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bye