Over at The Forward, Jay Michaelson has a great column on The Myth of Authenticity. As I read it, his basic point is to crack apart any sense of an essential transhistorical Judaism in favor of an outlook that sees Judaism and Jewish culture (like all cultures) as always hybrid. This means that Jewish culture is ours to construct (with recourse to the dizzying variety of historical Jewish forms as well). As Michaelson puts it,
No, Biblical Israelites are not the real Jews. Neither are Hasidim, 20th-century modernists, neurotic New York psychoanalysts, Moroccan saints, angst-ridden intellectuals, High Reformers or anyone else. Real Jews are all of the above — and the rest of us who take Jewishness seriously, in one form or another. Real Jews speak with Southern accents, keep one day of yomtov (the holiday), hike in the wilderness, eat shrimp, intermarry, become ba’alei teshuvah, do karate, are bisexual, are neoconservative. Real Jews are the ones who make Judaism real for themselves.
So Jewschoolers, are we ready for this brave new world where meaning trumps authenticity? I know I am, and I would love to see the mainstream Jewish community wake up to the power of arguments like Michaelson’s.