So, what else is new?
October 27, 2017
The Jewish Community is divided. Oh my, what a shock. There was a time that we were one Tribe. As the Community grew, the kids moved on, just like today. And so, as each family grew we became 12 tribes –The tribes split—and not harmoniously. Supposedly, although the rabbis can spend yet another millennium arguing about it, it was because of an economic dispute. Jewish families fighting and splitting up over family money and inheritance? Well, yeah!
The State of Israel? Surely we all agreed on that! Wrong. Many Jews in the 1800s thought that the rebuilding of a Jewish State was a horrible idea. Even, believe it or not, there were arguments as to where the Jewish Nation should be located. Are you kidding?
Once Israel was a reality, still we argued. What was the size of Israel to be? The original borders stretched much farther than the Founders of the Third Jewish Commonwealth had to accept in 1947.
The proponents of “Greater Israel” disagreed with those who would accept borders within a much smaller State. That argument still resonates today. We are a people whose Torah scholars can spend a lifetime arguing over a few sentences in the Book—or take the side of this rabbi or that rabbi and what they said about it.
Argument, debate and discussion is built into our DNA. At times it does indeed get out of hand. We have had instances of violence among ourselves. In most cases it has been one individual and usually someone with severe mental problems.
There is a difference today. The politics of the U.S. have become so divided, so rancorous that it splits up families. Discussion has taken on a sharper edge. Civility seems out of fashion. Eric Hoffer wrote in “The True Believer” that the movements of the Left and the movements of the Right as they moved to their extremes become more and more like each other until it is hard to tell the difference.
In the case of Our People it is beyond philosophy—it is painful. In the 1960s we had the SDS—Students for a Democratic Society. They were a loosely organized tatter of students and activists who never did define their actual agenda beyond the fact that things were not right and society was a case of haves and have nots. They were formed against the background of the Viet Nam war and drafting students into a war in which most of the nation did not believe.
As in most protest movements against injustice, Jews were in the forefront on most campuses where the SDS was active. It was never violent and pretty much disappeared as the war wound down.
That was a time when those to the left who love the underdog were in Israel’s corner and it was hard to find a Jew who would argue against the State of Israel and what it stood for. Times change.
Abraham Lincoln quoted from the Bible when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The divisions in the Jewish Community are so splintered it could make your head spin. You have rabbis in Israel declaring not only is their philosophy the correct one, but any Jew who does not believe in everything they think and do is not a Jew! We’ve even got a prominent (and very wealthy) Orthodox Jew declaring that Modern Orthodox Jews are “Fake Jews” (wonder where he got that phrase?).
Jewish rabbis in Israel had a big problem declaring Ethiopian Jews as Jews. Israel survived their exodus to Israel and now they serve the nation well in the army and have even had a Miss Israel.
“What is a Jew” is not a new question. It is the hyperbole and the rancor that surrounds it that is new. Jews criticizing Israel—Jews criticizing those who take a different approach to worship.
This should not be a time of “my way is the only way.” We should rather focus on the fact that less than 30 percent of Jewish millennials, according to a recent survey, think that their Judaism is important and not worry so much less about what kind of Jew they should be. We should focus on the problem of Jews who actually support BDS or think J Street is the real deal.
Blame it on the times. Statistics show that this generation probably comes from a divorced home—that over half of those homes are from mixed faith marriages. This generation saw their dad’s dream of the corner office go up in flames in 2007—maybe the business itself went belly up. And in a great number of cases, saw the family home go into foreclosure.
You would think those circumstances would send them looking for a base to hold on to. They don’t. They go develop a new app instead. What is a Jew? It remains to be seen.