23 thoughts on “Question of the Day

  1. What do you mean by frontier of Jewish thought? Not sure I know what you mean. If I met a controversial idea, how would I know that it’s not a backwater of Jewish thought?
    Ex: bring back anti Zionism as it once was in the Reform Movement!

  2. OK, to be specific: What will be the major areas of thought with which Jews are struggling inthe next, let’s say ten years. For example, the stuff that’s hot right now seems to me to include, feminism and the role of women, gay and lesbian , the inclusion (or not) of intermarried Jews and their spouses/ children… etc.
    What will the things we are struggling with be, what do we need to address next?

  3. It depends which part of the Jewish world we’re talking about. For example, “the role of women” may be a “frontier of Jewish thought” in the Orthodox world, but is old news to the rest of us.

  4. The changing role of Israel in the Jewish world, from ‘touchstone of identity’ to ‘that controversial country which blinds some and pushes away others.’
    The challenge of promoting gender equality in synagogues and Jewish organizations by recruiting more men – men at all ranks and all capacities, from bikkur holim committees, to administrative assistants, to executive directors at small shuls.
    The focus on quality and not quantity of Jewish experience and continuity.
    More scandals around Jewish Renewal/Guru types. God willing, less room for solo flyers in the community, as attention to process, inclusivity and diversity are better integrated.

  5. I think that one of the major frontiers in Jewish thought is the idea that Judaism is beginning into a post-Rabbinic era… what binds Jewish communities together in an age where families and individuals are far more mobile than they once were? And what is the role of Israel in Jewish life – especially given that so many Jews live outside of Israel and, seemingly, have no intention of returning there.

  6. yevanot? post-zionism? my brother isaac wants to make aliyah so that he can then make yeridah because he sees both as equally culturally important — the cultural center of the jews being israel, but the diaspora as being equally important and mobility of ideas between the two as crucial to jewish future. in his view, political zionism nullifies the importance of yiddish shtetl culture and sephardic existence, not to mention other groups of jews, thereby marginalizing every type of diaspora heritage in favor of a glamorized sabra image that draws as much if not more on non-jewish trendiness as it does on jewish cultural heritage.
    one of those has to be good enough to get me yelled at by someone.

  7. The democratization of Judaism… With the various denominations forming over the years it is pushing the envelope of allowing Judaism to redefine itself on the individual level.
    Dealing with the issues of traditional vs. modernism and transcending to a integrative approach which includes both and even more.
    Redefining Judaism in terms of humanism and globalism….perhaps the end of Judaism…would is be so bad?

  8. I think the next step for the Jewish community may be psychological renewal. Otherwise, we have a bunch of traumatized persons (not sure if it’s a historical thing due to the relative recency of the Holocaust, or something else, but I sense a lack of wholeness in our community) all trying to get their ego needs met…. After reaching a more whole place, I think the decisions we make about halacha and judaism (individually, and communally if necessary) will have more resonance and meaning.

  9. More on authority and membership. We can start with the later, as uzi mentioned patralineal descent will probaby become the “driving tshuva” of the reform movement. While it is completely historically valid and does not diminish blood ties anymore than matralineal descent, it is frankly not going to be accepted anytime soon by its detractors. And this is where authority enters into the conversation. The heterodox communities that accept patralinial descent do not understand the extent to which their descision underminds the normative view of authority as defined by those who reject such a decision. In this regard, patralineal descent has done as much good for Jewish unity as it has bad. It has provided a tremendous number of Jews entrance into Judaism while also drawing a very stark line between those who follow such a ruling and those who do not. By broadening the accepted definition of who is a Jew on one side cuts them off from an entire community of Jews on the other side.
    Patralineal descent is a pardigmatic example of where memership and authority meet. But authority is also a great question. While liberal judaism has become more ritually literate they have not become more ritually observant. What looks like halachic observance is really a rediscovery of ritual and subsiquent reformation. It would be innappropriate to suggest that what is really going on is an entrance into the halachic system (this is not necessarily a negative thing. Liberal Judaism is based on personal authority).
    As for the community I desire and think will eventually develop. A community based in ritual integrity and intellectual honesty. One where there is great care and detail given to ritual halachik observance but also uses an open heart, mind and morality to provide an open door to those that want to participate.

  10. The heterodox communities that accept patralinial descent do not understand the extent to which their descision underminds the normative view of authority as defined by those who reject such a decision. In this regard, patralineal descent has done as much good for Jewish unity as it has bad.
    The “patrilineal descent” ruling, on its own, has had no negative effect on Jewish unity. The Jewish people is divided with or without it. See this post.

  11. Liberal Judaism is based on personal authority).
    If you mean by liberal judaism Reform Judaism. Reconstructionism (at least intheory) is based on the authority of the community, and COnservative Judaism (at least intheory) is based on the authority of halacha as defined by tradition and the mara d’atra (Conservative rabbis, in this case)

  12. As seen in BZ’s post on Mah Rabuh
    “I am instead going to respond to the frequent allegation that the CCAR’s resolution has singlehandedly split the Jewish people, an allegation made by Orthodox leaders claiming a monopoly on authentic Judaism, or by Conservative leaders looking for a Sister Souljah moment (and thus declaring the recognition of equilineal descent to be one of their Unforgivable Curses).”
    My suggestion that patralineal descent has done as much good as bad is summed up by BZ’s acurate portrayal of Orthodox and Conservative approaches to the resolution. I am not talking about the nafka minah of the ruling rather the responses. I would not have been able to say that it has done some good if that were true. Rather I want to suggest in the context of the greater conversation here, the extent to which it is a radical transformation of the boundaries of membership and will be at the forefront of Jewish conversation for some time.
    As for the role of personal authority, Reconstructionist Judaism and Conservative Judaism are both based on rule-making structures governed by democracy. It is an interesting question as to the extent democracy and halacha can play well together. Concerning Recon – that means communal events may have different rules, more stringent rules, than one’s home. As for Conservative Judaism, I am not sure that the entire Conservative Movement is really a member of “big L” Liberal Judaism. In the end, as pointed out by the comment “in theory” – on the ground most Jews affiliated with a Liberal stream of Judaism have not been forced to think about authority.
    Nor, have we even begun a conversation about Orthodoxy and the way authority will have to be reevaluated when the entire generation of children of Baalei Tshuva grow up as Frum from birth. Or how Modern Orthodoxy in america basically looks like 1920’s Conservative Judaism having become the harbingers of Academic Judaism. Oh the excitement!

  13. i agree that the focus on membership and authority debates, thought I see that as only pertaining to the elite. Your average Jew identifies as such for a variety of reasons, largely familial memory and communal meaning. They dont really care about the details of theology, halacha, or movement policy. This is not to disparage these folks. It is to recognize that Jewish identity occurs at the nexis of experiences and memories. To the extent that those elements are shared (even in part), it is a cultural phenomenon. Thus, the frontiers of Jewish thought will have little bearing on american Jewish life. What will be most important are the frontiers of Jews experience. It is on this front that elites and folk can get together to create meaningful communal encounters. Small scale, participatory communities. Small scale, because that is how meaning is produced, through actual human connections (see Dunbar’s Number).
    Of course, the other option is to ship young Jews to israel for their assimilation inoculations. I mean, if we are supporting an occupying power, we might as well get some benefit here on the other side of the pond.

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