August 06, 2004

Who Cares Who Is A Jew?

The Jerusalem Post runs a great column by Emanuele Ottolengh about the problem of classifying the defining characteristics of a Jew. I completely agree with this statement:

Legally, it makes sense to pose the question. But for most Jews, it is the wrong question to ask. The really pressing question today is Who will be a Jew? Not at the next Supreme Court hearing on non-Orthodox conversions, not at the next gathering of US Reform rabbis, but in 10, 20, 50 years, in Israel and elsewhere.

If Jews want to not only find inclusive and generally acceptable criteria for citizenship and membership in the Jewish state but also guarantee continuity within those parameters for generations to come, they need to build Jewish identity on positive values.

So, what are these values? How do we instill them in the new generation, and give them a reason why to be Jewish?

Posted by ArielBeery at 07:43 AM | Comments (13315)

August 02, 2004

Wandering Jews

I've been reading some old stuff by Leon Wieseltier and came across an interesting passage in a 2003 piece he wrote criticizing Edward Said's Freud and the Non-European:

"Jews are not Europeans and they are not non-Europeans. They are Jews, an autonomous people with an autonomous history that has directed them, in different times and in different places, against their will and according to their will, toward certain peoples and away from certain peoples."

Posted by Aharon at 11:25 AM | Comments (4867)

August 01, 2004

"Sovrenoot" anyone?

"The very word for tolerance in Hebrew sovrenoot comes from a root meaning not respect or acceptance but grudgingly "putting up with" someone or something irritating."

This from the always accurate "Grey Lady," (sovrenoot????) who regales us constantly with her knowledge of etymologies. Here, Hebrew is by nature flawed, harsh. But hark, according to the OED, English's own word for tolerance, ehm, tolerance, also has the same meaning: "To endure, sustain." That also sounds like "putting up" with somehing rather than embracing it.

More importantly, this article describes attacks on the Museum's right to exist in Israel because it is, one, a mockery of the real situation in Israel, and two, it is an imported American idea that has no bearing on Israel and the middle-east.

I think the Israeli intellectuals who oppose it are probably thinking that our involvement in this bitter conflict with the Palestinians, paritcularly the occupation, has undercut our right to speak about tolerance.

This isn't a political blog so much of this isn't relevant. What is relevant though is that most of the classic Zionist sources, from Ahad Ha'am to Jabotinsky, saw Israel as chance to create a state that would embody tolerance and justice. They were of course reacting to ancient Jewish ideas, and thousands of years of Jewish history. In my opinion it is a bit shortsighted to throw in the towel now, and say we have no right to speak of tolerance. Part of that depends on what the museum exhibits. What do you think?

Also, American Jewry's supposed "cultural imperialism" in Israel is an important topic. Any thoughts?

Posted by Aharon at 09:38 AM | Comments (2169)