How do you say Tikkun Olam in Hebrew?

Friday lunchtime, I was at the Can “Jewish Culture” Sustain the Jewish People? Is “Hip” Enough? panel. Panelists Robbie Gringras, Leon Morris and Jennifer Traig, ably moderated by Gary Rosenblatt, chewed the fat.
Leon had some incisive thinking: that the “hip” fringe/disempowered expressions of Jewish identity has an adolescent edge to it tinged with a degree of self loathing – I’m still thinking about that. Robbie played devil’s advocate (“we are a people divided by a common religion”, “I don’t think all this Jewish learning is the answer”), and Jennifer really got it: she talked about doing the hip stuff with an ironic detachment – although Robbie countered with critical attachment.
Interesting – unanswered – question from the floor about whether the cannibalisation of African American culture, and the thousands of MCs of eastern european descent had an inherent racism to it.
Seems to me that the whole debate missed the debate about bothness/duality – it’s not an either/or, you can be a sabbath-observant Heeb reader, and religious/spiritual identity and cultural secular identity can play off and inform each other.
Jewschool may or may not have an MP3 eventually posted, so you can hear the whole thing verbatim.

6 thoughts on “How do you say Tikkun Olam in Hebrew?

  1. Leon had some incisive thinking: that the “hip” fringe/disempowered expressions of Jewish identity has an adolescent edge to it tinged with a degree of self loathing
    I thought such ideas were forbidden, except as irony (“look at me! I’m a self-loathing Jew! Folks are fussed, so I must have said something clever!”). What gives?

  2. There’s not that much substance put into this post for me to respond to, but I think that the question of “Can Jewish Culture sustain the Jewish people?” is an interesting one.
    In my humble opinion I think that one should not ask if Jewish culture can sustain the Jewish people, but if Jewish people can sustain the Jewish culture. Regardless of your religious denomination we are talking about tradition here. Tradition depends upon the people passing it down, not on whether or not it has some kind of lure to it that everyone will see in every age.
    In sum: Can people find a reason to sustain Jewish culture, or do they see it as something replaceable?

  3. Inkhorn,
    We’re not talking about tradition here, that’s the point. Jewish culture can exist completely independently of Jewish tradition. The prefabricated “debate” put forward by the organized community is whether culture alone can sustain the Jewish people. But as Sashinka pointed out, it’s not an either/or proposition.

  4. How nice to see my question referenced in your report-back on this session… but if I may offer a correction, I asked about the “colonization” of African-American culture (by E.European Jews), not cannibalization. The latter would b ainteresting idea to discuss, ut has a pretty different meaning. thanks for your work with Limmud reporting!

  5. Why would cannibalizing or colonizing African-American culture be racist? Isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

  6. EV,
    I think that it’s a bit too extreme to say that culture is completely independent of tradition. What are you talking about when you write ‘culture’? Culture is: Behaviours-Attitudes-Beliefs-Institutions-Philosophies past down from one generation to another. What defines this ‘Jewish Culture’ that we are so monolithically talking about? Is it the kitsch, the food, the symbols, the current attitudes towards Judaism, fashion. If you want to use the term ‘Jewish’, then there has to be something identifiably Jewish, whether it agrees with tradition, or whether it is a reaction against the tradition. Either way you have to have people who want to etch out for themselves (and possible family, etc) some identity that has an element of Jewishness in it.
    What makes a book Jewish, for example? Is it the fact that I, born a Jew, own it? Maybe the book has something to say about gay rights activism in the Reform/Conservative/Orthodox/Secular Jewish community in (insert location here). I would be glad to call that book a piece of the incredibly complex phenomenon of Jewish culture. I think you have to ask yourself in what context the words ‘Jewish Culture’ has meaning.
    Yes I agree that one can read ‘Heeb Magazine’ and be a Chassid, but both of those depend on whether or not the person really has ANY CONCERN whatsoever for Jews/being Jewish.

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