Steven M. Cohen and Jack Wertheimer have an essay in this month’s issue of Commentary on the devaluation of group responsibility and social cohesion in the Jewish community and the rise of individualism.
While the piece does a great job of trendspotting and identifying the present state of affairs, it does little to examine the reasons why Jews are defecting towards individual expressions of Judaism and receding from communal participation and identification with their fellow Jews.
Though I believe B’nai B’rith Magazine’s article last year “Uncovering The Un-Movement” offers some clues in this direction, as does Rick Marker in his statements to Jewschool previously, and my yet unfinished critique of institutional Judaism which I authored last October, I’d like to invite the autonomous peanut gallery that comprises our readership and contributorship to chime in on the issue:
What is/are the chilul hashem(s) driving you out the Jewish communal door? If such issues were addressed, would you identify more strongly with your co-religionists? What would it take to revive the Jewish communitarian spirit? Is it even something you want a part of anymore? And if not, why not?
As a sidebar, I’d like to add that in reading pieces such as this — which includes Ismar Shorsch’s recent remarks and the B’nai B’rith article cited above — I often get the impression that the previous generation is seeking to evade responsibility for their failure to propagate an “ideal Jewish community” by shifting blame to the current generation. To that I say, it’s is not we who have been at the helm of Jewish leadership for the last 30 years. It is you, the prior generation! We did not choose to be plopped in front of the television, leaving MTV to serve in loco parentis. We did not develop Jewish day school curriculae. We did not hire the last wave of Jewish educators. We did not choose to bankrupt the public education system while making private Jewish education unaffordable. We did not choose our rabbis or our synagogues’ nussachs. We did not choose the Occupation. We did not choose the Federation system, denominationalism, nor the ADL. We are not responsible for the emphasis on individual fulfillment nor the rise in “spiritual consumerism” which has taken foothold in the last half-century. You bear responsibility for falling asleep at the wheel. You’re the yuppie bastards who traded in a tie-dyed revolution for Ikea and 401k plans. That we’re left to make sense of the devastated world you left behind is on you, not us. Own your failure and wave not your finger. We’re doing the best we possibly can with such inherited circumstances.