17 thoughts on “Mishegaas

  1. i think forman is talking about merging movements in israel. from what i understand, which is admittedly not that much, there are 12 reform jews in israel anyway. apart from the american rabbinical students et al, most israelis who i know who don’t identify as orthodox seem more at home with the word masorti or secular. masorti jews don’t look much like reform jews.

  2. I don’t know why all of a sudden, I’ve become such a comment monkey, but thanks for posting a second Protocols review. I unfortunately enjoyed it much more than I did my own. Then again, I don’t edit a magazine, so there’s that.

  3. Mobius,
    C’mon, a little humility is in order here. Yeah, yeah. We know that you consider yourself part of an autonomous Jewish movement and post-denominational and blah, blah, blah. But, such elements of our community are by no means time-tested. You have to realize that in some ways, you are part of the “ivory tower,” theorizing new structures for Jewish life. They may very well fall flat on their face before they get going.
    While I cannot predict the future of autonomous, post-organization, buzzword-this, buzzword-that Judaism, I can think of at least one way in which it may fail. There are those in the orthodox world who are wont to comment that non-orthodox Jews will eventually whither away while the orthodox will stick around. I don’t buy it, but there is some statistical evidence that such trends exist. You could make a very good argument that the same thing will happen with these new, smaller movements: Those Jews who join in a become very committed to them will move towards traditional Jewish practice. Those Jews who do not “move right,” even if they remain involved, will not likely pass that involvement down a number of generations.
    My point is simply this: Don’t talk so big and brag about your favorite new-fangled Jewish identity until it has lasted more than a decade or two. Once it has, then you can take on those who talk establishment.

  4. “But, such elements of our community are by no means time-tested. You have to realize that in some ways, you are part of the ‘ivory tower,’ theorizing new structures for Jewish life.”
    before the shaoh, all jewish life organized itself in this way. there were no such things as denominations.
    having a meaningful jewish practice has nothing to do with being “traditional” per se, and certainly nothing to do with moving to the right. read soloveitchik on the subject.

  5. Post-denominational. Non-denominational. Multi-denominational. Just Jewish. This IS increasingly how the younger generation expresses its Jewish affinity. It has nothing to do with Dan’s personal view or self-importance as much a trend he rightly recognizes. Cohen’s The Jew Within and an existing “pick and choose” menu of Jewish identity cues point to a movement away from movement and institutional affiliation. But ironically, the dis-movement trend is one of the stronger cases for their existance. Those who want to pick and choose as Jews need options from which to select. The Umbrella movements provide some of them, the reactions to them and to one another, inform even more. The Reform movement is stronger numerically than ever. The USCJ is having an identity crisis born of its pluralist middle ground. But neither are going away that soon or merging.

  6. It is not quite realistic to claim that before the Shoah, Jewish life organized itself in such a way. After all, the movements that we know (R, C, and O) were around before then. The Litvaks railed against the Hasidim, and both railed against the Haskalah movement.
    The fact is, there has always been a secular Jewish public to some extent. There has always been intermarriage. There has always been assimilation. It is not, in the least clear, however, that there has been any Jewish community/identity which has lasted (a couple hundred years or more) that wasn’t either forced (i.e. Jews were kept separate by the majority population) or was based on shared religious practice.
    I’m not judging as to whether that is a good or bad thing. I’m not saying that being “traditional” is the only way to have meaningful Jewish practice. However, there is no evidence that without blatant bias against Jews or shared traditional Jewish practice that a long-term community can be formed. We should cognizant of that when we predict the dominance of “new Judaism” over the “old.”

  7. Worse than Dubya’s smack in the face to jewsfor having that party with abbas the day after his own party murdered those 3 jewish kids is the fact that those GOP jews who touted “israel’s best friend” have also not uttered a peep, and i see nothing in the right wing j-media yet denouncing the lack of repsonse or even acknowlegement and the irony of it all. some friend

  8. i think i agree with everyone here. yes, community is fostered more successfully through traditional religious expression. (when everyone has to shop at the same kosher store, or show up to make a minyan, or have people over to help build the sukkah, bingo, you’ve got community that a flurry of hipster parties and rallies and whatever other wonderful expressions of Judaism there may be simply do not make.)
    That said it’s absolutely true that we’re moving into a time where denominationalism (i cannot say this word for the life of me) is less and less important. this is reflected in the simultaneous decline of synagogue affiliation (this is quantifiable) as well as the uptick in jewish studies goin on outside the shul, the flurry of action on the chavera front and the rise of independent jewish social movements like PJA, Reboot, and many others.
    i guess what i’m getting at is that these two ideas are not mututally exclusive. you can believe in a more orthodox, more traditional, more halachic expression of judaism while acknowledging that affiliation with a 20th century jewish “movement” is not necessarily something this generation is going to do. my own minyan has a halachic approach to davvening, meals and holidays, but we don’t call ourselves orthodox or conservative or anything else and we probably won’t ever affiliate with a larger movement.

  9. TownCrier, you are absolutely right, and I am SOOO glad you said it, openly and honestly: America is not “Israel’s Best Friend” nor is Israel “America’s Best Friend.” We remember that England was Israel’s first “best friend” (until war for independence) , then France (until Israel got its nukes), then the USA, and, doubtless, Red China will be next. I always keep that history in mind when anyone blows smoke up my b*tt about Israel being “America’s Best Friend” (e.g. the Freedom for Pollard crowd).

  10. Mobius, you said, “before the shoah, all jewish life organized itself in this way. there were no such things as denominations.”
    Read up on the German Conferences of 1841-846, the Philadelphia Conference of 1869 and The Pittsburgh Platform of 1885. By 1885, Reform Jewry had formed itself as a religion (denomination) and not a people/nation/race. As a religion, they could be Americans like any other, rather than claiming to be a separate people/nation/race in exile. They also rejected Zionism, since it also asserted their fundamental difference *as a people* from the people of he countries they lived in, and the correlary idea that Israeel was the only rightful homeland of the Jews. Since WWII, however, Reform Jewry has reverted to the separate nationality and peoplehood of the Jews. In other words, WWII the Shoah have if anything caused Jews to become LESS denominational and more national.

  11. I wonder if you are aware of a certain brilliant figure from the past, namely the Jewish orthodox rationalist, Mar Samuel, of the Academy of Sara, Babylon, from about the year 220 ace. He made a famous decision, which by the way most affected the Jews, and was expressed in the phrase, Dina d’malchuthah dina—”The law of the land is the law for us.” This means that it was the duty of all people including the Jews to obey the laws of the countries in which we live.
    Jeremiah’s famous quote, which should be etched into every adult’s consciousness, was “Seek the peace of the country whither ye are exiled and pray to the Lord-for its welfare.” The ultimate result of Samuel’s dictum was that the better the Jew, the better the patriot.
    Jeremiah out trumps Jabotinsky in the Wisdom Card Game by a mile.
    The above may explain somewhat my worldview/belief system.

  12. As has been said, the proposed merger of the R and C movements is specifically in Israel, where both movements are in the minority (albeit growing), and where there is much less difference between the two movements (the biggest difference between the typical Reform shul and the typical Conservative shul in America is that the former uses more English in services, and that’s not an issue in Israel where Hebrew is the vernacular).
    But I think a merger of R and C in general (while extremely unlikely to happen) might actually be good for our independent style of Judaism (whatever we call it). Because the congregations involved in this hypothetical ubermovement would be so different from each other, it would be impossible to try to homogenize them to conform to a single model of Jewish community (the way the R and C movements try to do now). And once the movement includes two models of communities (instead of one), this opens the door for a lot more. Something in the style of Kol Zimrah would not fit into either the Reform or Conservative movements as presently constituted, but would fit into the uber-movement.
    Anyway, it’s not happening, so we’ll have to make our way outside the movements.

  13. As a member of a Reform congregation out here in the hinterlands I would be pleased to consider a merger with Conservative Judaism if the Conservative movement would welcome gay Jews without reservation (i.e. committment ceremonies for gay couples, ordination of gay rabbis and cantors) and be more welcoming to interfaith couples. I’m not holding my breath. By the way, I’m straight. But I want you to know, some of my best friends are gay. (Irony intended.)

  14. Sarah maakes a good point, one I alluded to but didn’t nail. The “independent” or post denominational minyans, groups, projects, et al, are both reactions to the movements and informed by them, and vise versa. The independent projects should be the best thing that ever happened to movements, in that it can teach them what’s working and maybe serve as stepping stones to their mainline institutions. As movements have become more conservative and defined in their own dogma (for better or worse), more people find themselves on the edges, either looking in or looking out. Some look inward toward the tradition of the movement from whence they came, others look out, toward other movements, other traditions or out into space. And then there’s them’s who always felt on the outs. All these fringe folk are feeling a sense of room in the resulting tzimtzum to experiment. It is on these fringes where progress, change, creativity and development occur. That said, I still don’t see a merger between R and C for many more reasons than the gay one (view of talmudic authority in personal lives being primary), nor this n-nmovmenet evolving into anything more than a loose association of independent, common-culture projects.

  15. In other words, WWII the Shoah have if anything caused Jews to become LESS denominational and more national.
    To be fair, you gotta finish the sentence: WWII the Shoah have if anything caused Jews to become LESS denominational and more national than adherence to the European Enlightenment — in the hope that everyone would just forget they were Jews anyway — would otherwise have made them.

  16. The flipside is that denominations have their benefits. Jews practice in many varities, and the idea that we should all be forced to stomach on set style of tradition is a mistake. It offends me when Reform services include Broadway song and dance numbers on Rosh Hashana, but I don’t care if that makes them feel observant. Just don’t take away my right to avoid the renewal, reconstructionist, whatever you call it movement. There used to be many shade in between drum circles in Temple, and the ultra-Orthodox. Now, not so much, and I find myself having to attend a more devout shul just to find something which resembles what I know as Judaism.

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