Bronfman Big Idea Series: “Translating Judaism for the Post-Digital Age: Creative Zionism and a Renewed Jewish People”

PresenTenseInstituteForCreativeZionism

What can we as modern Jews learn from the social networks created in the Diaspora? What does being part of the collective Jewish system add to an individual’s life? What is the Jewish role in the Information Revolution? How can Jewish social entrepreneurs create a value-added system for being Jewish in the modern world?

This is my 7th entry in the Bronfman Big Ideas Series.

About the Author

Ariel Beery is the editor and publisher of PresenTense, co-founder and director of the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism, director of strategy and design for MavenHaven, co-editor of BlogsofZion. He was a co-founder of the Creative Zionist Circle together with Aharon Horwitz in 2003. Ariel lectures and writes on topics pertaining to the Jewish People, its future, and Creative Zionism.

ArielBeery

Ariel is a full time graduate student at NYU’s Wagner School doing two master’s degree–one in nonprofit management and the other in Judaic Studies. Ariel is a graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in economics and political science, served as President of the School of General Studies Student Body, and was co-founder and co-coordinator of a lecture series on Minorities in the Middle East at Columbia.

You can learn more about Ariel and read his writings here.

Photo by Lisa Kereszi

Translating Judaism for the Post-Digital Age:
Creative Zionism and a Renewed Jewish People by Ariel Beery

Introduction: Technology & the Search for Meaning

The advent and spread of information technology has irrevocably transformed the means of communication, and therefore the form communities will take until the next great leap in technological abilities.

The capabilities we as humans now have to develop relationships with others and to plan and execute collective actions have been exponentially impacted by the spread of the internet.

These capabilities will only be expanded in the coming years, as mobile broadband becomes just as accessible as AM radio, as data storage puts near infinite bits on a keychain, and as battery life becomes measured in days and not hours.

What has not changed, however—what has even increased in recent years—is the human need for meaning and the search for others who share a common conception of meaning and values. Hence the rise of the evangelical movement, hence the increased focus in business on social return on investment and social entrepreneurship, and hence the valuation of social networks such as Facebook for sums in the billions of dollars.

Why Be Jewish

There are few social networks with the depth and breadth as the one maintained for the past three millennia by the Children of Israel. And yet Am Israel, an ancient network tying together nodes of immense value across continents and time periods, seems to have lost its reason for being.

Am Yisrael as a Social Network–

To put it plainly, most Jews do not see the added value in being part of the Jewish People – and therefore would be hard-pressed to answer the question, “Why are you Jewish?”

This is a strategic threat, an existential threat, one we as a People are facing for the first time in a very long time. In fact, the last time we faced such a threat, at the turn of the Common Era, Rabbinic Judaism was born as a value set to justify the continued existence of the Jewish People as Jews.

Since the time of Hellenism there have mainly been environmental pressures that kept Jewish identity in check—Christianity in the West, and Islam in the East, both maintaining a discourse within which Jewish identity was seen as a worthwhile adversary, even while it was derided as inferior.

Hellenism of old, and the Western liberalism of the present day, however, work on a different wave-length—leaving those Jews who are not wholly committed to the rabbinicly defined bounds of the covenant in an entirely different operating environment which is softly killing their resolve to act as Jews.

The Jewish Operating System–

To use computers as a metaphor, whereas the Abrahamic faiths were running one form of Operating System, the Greek-inspired paradigm runs a different Operating System – thereby creating cross compatibility issues we are feeling in the present day.

The Collective Value of Judaism

The project this entry puts forward seeks to develop a successful program and set of protocols for navigating the Information Age while using the Jewish Operating System.

Together with my activism chevruta, Aharon Horwitz, I have been developing a set of ideas—and programs bringing these ideas to life—for the past five years. I hope to take advantage of this opportunity at Brandeis to synthesize these thoughts and observations into a book.

AhadHaam

The bottom line of this project currently holds that unless we as Jews can make a case for why being part of the Jewish collective adds value to an individual’s life—unless the Jewish Operating System is better suited to successfully navigate the new world created by the Information Age—the collective identity of the Jews will be lost, and all that will be left are small groups of spiritually committed Jews who act autonomously in following their own individual search for meaning.

Whereas minority pockets of Jews each praying to the beat of their own drum might not be the worst of all worlds, in our opinion a world in which a strong and interlinked Jewish People exists and engages in conversation about, and the production of, value is a much better world to live in—for Jews in particular, and human beings in general.

Creative Zionism

The set of protocols we believe best suits the mixed multitudes of Jewish persons and denominational streams that make up the Jewish People is what we’ve called Creative Zionism.

Creative Zionism is based upon the understanding that Zionism was always a movement that sought the realization of the collective potential of the Jewish People, without dictating a faith-test for Judaism as a religion.

Herzl

Drawing on the work of Ahad Ha’am, Mordechai Kaplan, Simon Rawidowicz, and others from that period, we seek to find a way to globalize Jewish sovereignty, to create a creative network through which the world is enriched, to fulfill the promise made to Jacob, “Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants”

The book, the coalescing title being Translating Judaism for the Post-Digital Age: Creative Zionism and a Renewed Jewish People, will explore the affect of the unique historical waves that have shaken the Jewish People over the past half-century – namely, the Information revolution, the creation of the State of Israel, and the intellectual shift towards post-Colonialism and its version of post-Modernity – and seek to parse the current position of the Jewish People.

It will then seek to learn from contemporary models of community building and value creation to find points worthy of what Ahad Ha’am would call ‘imitation.’ Therein it will develop a future vision for a value-adding Jewish identity, making the case for upgrading the Jewish operating system to make it not only consonant, but even best suited, for the new age humanity finds itself thrust into.

PresenTense Magazine & the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism

Simultaneously, our growing team is working to test these ideas in the ‘real world,’ mixing Torah with Ma’aseh so that one can learn from the other. PresenTense Magazine, which I founded in December of 2005, provides a platform for Jews in their 20s and 30s to explore the meaning of Jewish life in the here and now, and encourages innovation and entrepreneurship through bringing light to new projects and new ideas.

Aharon and I founded the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism in the summer of 2007 to turn ideas into action. Located in Jerusalem, PICZ brought together socially-minded entrepreneurs from around the world and across the disciplines—including hi-tech, business, social action, education and the arts. These fellows worked together and were trained for six weeks in a research and development action tank environment, surrounded by a supportive community of members who attended public lectures and events, and taught by leading thinkers and activists in the Jewish world.

Twelve projects were launched at the end of the six weeks, and nearly all of them are well on their way to proof of concept—four of them already developing presence in the field. The warmth of the reception, and the hope it engendered among people on both sides of the Atlantic was surprising and encouraging.

10ToWatch2008

The Institute was reported on in the JTA, the Forward, Haaretz, IBA, the Jewish Week, The Marker Magazine, and the World Jewish Digest in its list of the ten “Jews to Watch in 2008”—spreading the vision of positive Jewish action, inspiring hope for the future in its assertion that problems can be solved through the application of entrepreneurial Chalutznik spirit.

Currently, we’re working on publishing two more issues of the magazine in the Spring, launching a journal on Jewish life in the post-digital age in the Fall, and running another summer Institute this upcoming summer.

The grand strategic goal is one and the same: to develop a value-adding Jewish operating system that will serve as a platform to enable entrepreneurs to solve human problems through Jewish action, and thereby increase Jewish social capital, providing a distinct and self-evident reason for being.

Going Global: The Society for Jewish Creativity

Eventually, we hope to enable the creation of a self-perpetuating international network of Jewish thinkers, activists, artists, content-creators and interested lay members modeled on information age systems of open and end-user moderated social interaction.

PICZ2007

This Society for Jewish Creativity would become an organizing framework for the generation, enrichment and cross fertilization of Jewish culture. The Society will be international, unbounded geographically, but maintained through a network of physical structures that will serve the same function that servers or nodes serve on internet-based and peer-to-peer networks.

These nodes serve like internet servers—they are open, physical, spaces located wherever large concentrations of Society members live, or where Jewish communities have decided that they would like to place a factory for new ideas and solutions. Members of the Society—membership is semi-moderated, in that anyone can sign up as long as they hold by the importance of sovereign Jewish identity and do not hurt or harm other members of the network—are given the opportunity to utilize the node space according to availability of resources.

The node has three levels or sections: a community space, where the general community is invited to congregate and participate in activities and events; a creative space, with offices and studios available for the use of members and Society Fellows (fellowship described further below); and residencies, where fellows are able to take up residency, and members can book rooms in a manner much like the British club system.

During the day, the community space would serve as a library/ work-area/ lunch-and-learn premises, and at night the space can be utilized by members of the Society for cultural events.

PICZ2007(2)

Regularly, central nodes will hold open project presentation gatherings— CreativeJams— aimed at floating ideas for the Society’s consideration, where members may seek additional involvement or cross-fertilization. Eventually individual nodes may adopt certain projects for incubation, drawing on network resources and projects to elevate the chances of success.

While nodes are interlinked, so that a member of the Society has free access to all nodes, each member has an original node where that member is officially based. Classification by origination allows for differentiation among nodes, permitting nodes to be semi-autonomous spaces for members to specialize and make the place their own.

Meet Jacob the Poet–

An example of how this would work: Meet Jacob, a young Jewish writer living in New York, who makes a below-average income of $25,000. Jacob has decided that it is in his interest to become a member of the Society so that he could work on his book of collected poems about the Jewish experience.

Jacob utilizes the open-space of the New York Node to write during the day and is one day approached by a node moderator—a position modeled after a webmaster—who notifies Jacob that fellowships are available in return for a commitment of fellows to run cultural activities twice a month. Jacob applies, receives the fellowship, and plans activities.

At one of his events he meets Sharon, a young woman from the Jerusalem node. Jacob decides to visit Sharon in Jerusalem and, while there, utilizes the open-space of the Jerusalem node to continue writing—fulfilling his fellowship obligations by programming from that location.

Meet Samantha the Computer Programmer–

Such a model would capitalize on the competitive advantages of the Jewish People, and directly impact the sense of potential young entrepreneurial Jews will feel when thinking about pursuing their life’s dreams. One need not become a fellow to benefit: take, for example, Samantha, a young computer programmer from San Francisco.

Samantha finished her BA in MIT, and returned to the Bay Area to get her Master’s Degree at Stanford in Computer Science. While there, Samantha gets involved in a hot new start-up as their chief software architect, and eventually gets bought out by Google. Flush with success, Samantha seeks to develop a new company, and hears that a number of brilliant and creative young entrepreneurs work out of an interdisciplinary space—one where she can also find the nice Jewish boy she has been seeking.

Going to the Bay Area Node, Samantha finds talented programmers and also insightful social-entrepreneurs which identify for her problems she believes can be solved through an intelligent application of software. Samantha makes her pitch to the Society in one of the monthly CreativeJams, and learns that there are venture capitalist members of the London Node. Samantha books a room in the London node, boards the plane, and within a week has the backing for her new solution.

Supporting the Community: Financial Models

Financially, following the initial investment by members and backers, we are experimenting with the notion that the Society will draw on the Ma’aser financial model outlined in our tradition for communal funding, to link the perpetuation of the Society with a Hebraic frame of consciousness.

Membership in the Society will be viewed as a fundamental affirmation of the importance of placing creativity and entrepreneurship—Jewish action—at the heart of the Jewish experience. Members, therefore, would be expected to invest in the public good in a way that reflects the value added to their lives.

Tithing–

To repay value with value, members would be requested to tithe of 10 percent of their income to the collective. In line with the ethical framework for such tithing, the first year of the tithing will go towards the operating costs of the Society (Ma’aser rishon, to the Levites), the second year of the tithing will go towards fellowships and grants the society will provide to its members and to community projects (Ma’aser sheini, to the Temple), and the third year of tithing will go to social welfare services the Society will fund (Ma’aser ‘Ani).

PICZFellows2007

In order to ensure that all programs are well funded throughout the cycle, tithing will be staggered, such that while some members follow on cycle “n,” others follow cycle “n+1” (as some tithes will go towards the Society, others will go towards social services). The society will work with local organizations and Federations to enable the enrichment of the welfare net, and supplement their resources with new ideas and energies.

As such, the Society seeks to provide an information-age model for the Jewish People, one focused on enriching social capital, providing an additional layer on top of the Jewish world’s current institutions that were founded in response to the needs created by the industrial revolution.

Writing the Book: the Movement’s Manifesto–

But before we move to such a level of activity, in order to guide our energies and develop a common language for these ideas, we need a book, a manifesto—an organizing framework to serve as a platform and shared object of conversation with enough depth to change the way Jews think about themselves and the potential of the Jewish community.

BrandeisLogo

The task of writing this book is mine, and I have begun putting forward elements of our philosophy in articles published in the Jerusalem Post, the Forward, Ha’aretz, the CAJE journal and PresenTense—as well as on BlogsofZion and other blogs. Short articles, however, are not enough; although they certainly create opportunities for conversation and learning, due to the limitations of the form, it is impossible to dig to the depths needed to generate the justifications for this new paradigm of thought and action.

Engaging in such a project as a book, therefore, especially at a major hub for Jewish thought and research as is Brandies, would tremendously impact my ability to produce a successful work. First, the access I would have to leading minds in the Jewish world, as well as first-rate information about demographics and statistics, is unparalleled.

Teaching as Learning–

Moreover, the very fact that Brandeis has taken upon itself this step of providing a platform for creative exploration for the sake of the Jewish future is encouraging, stimulating and inspiring. Second, the opportunity to teach and be taught by Brandeis students will fundamentally affect the writing of this book, the contents of the vision and its implementation.

Some of the most intellectually stimulating times of my life were spent as a teacher and as a Madrich. Most recently, I taught courses to junior high-school students focusing on the history of Israel and Rabbinic Theology at the Prozdor program at JTS, and was struck by the creativity I felt when interacting with the students.

The lessons I taught were highly interactive, using source sheets that borrowed the contemporary layout of the Talmud to bring out commonalities and disagreements by philosophers, historians and contemporary sources – and there were few lessons that left me not returning to the sources to search for an answer to a question raised by the students on a topic that beforehand was not apparent.

Conclusion

It is with hope, therefore, that I submit this letter outlining my proposed project. It is clear to me as an observer of the contemporary intellectual and social scene that the moment of existential crisis has not yet passed, and as a committed activist I hope to do my part to craft the tools necessary to further the good and welfare of the Jewish People in this next epoch.

This visiting professorship will enable me to test, rethink and reform a set of protocols that will enable a successful upgrade of the Jewish Operating System—one I can only hope will do its part to ensure Israel remain an Am Olam, and fulfill the promises of covenant.

Your Contribution

So what do you think of these ideas? Are they valuable? How could these plans be further developed to meet your needs more fully? What are your reactions and thoughts?

We can’t wait to hear your comments.

Credit

Photographs of Ahad Ha’am and Theodore Herzl are in the public domain and attributed to multiple sources. All other photographs are from Ariel Beery and picture the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism’s inaugural year, 2007.

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109 Responses to Bronfman Big Idea Series: “Translating Judaism for the Post-Digital Age: Creative Zionism and a Renewed Jewish People”

  1. Shai says:

    Interesting proposal. It seems to me to be a technological era version of the Jewish community of the early 20th century – an Immigrant Aid Society perspective for a day when Jews no longer feel like outsiders.

    It would be useful, if this is true, to examine what happened to that society and determine why it no longer exists. What conditions once existed that no longer do? Is it probably that once the wave of technological advance washes over us (the condition confronting us now), we’ll be looking for a “next wave” solution because this one has become out of date, the same way that the Immigrant Aid Society model is becoming obsolete? What means of renewal and self-assessment can you build into the system that create community, rather than depending on the equity of the past?

    How does the purpose and meaning people seek found in the social relationships formed, how are those social relationships different than other social relationships with people “outside” the Jewish circle, such that the idea you mention adds value to the Jewish affiliation more than other affiliations (other groups could use the same idea even more successfully if it’s successful), and what makes these relationships “Jewish”?

    Your idea kind of gives a sense of shareholding to the proposal. How does the ethic of shareholding take hold in your proposal? How does he proposal sustain itself, how does it evolve children and retired people – how do you make the proposal intergenerational so that the Community as a whole can increase its sustainability? The idea seems to be geared to young American professionals. How does the idea spread and impact on people who are not young, American, or professional? How do they all fit into the communal scheme, such that the proposal has the power to change how we see ourselves and our community?

    I thought it was an interesting idea, Ariel – thanks for submitting. As a possible direction for the above questions – I know it’s kind of a silly thought – I remember cartoons from when I was a kid, with super-heroes meeting in the “Hall of Justice” to resolve some sort of problem or other the world was facing. There is a certain power in putting heads together to achieve a common goal. The idea, all ideas I think, benefit from giving thought to what motivates all of us to be “super-heroes” in our lives. What caused those young professionals to seek each other? Why do they want to marry Jews? Why do they expect a partnership between Jews in business would be something better? What’s the assumption behind that – the “big idea”? Does “Jewish Community” coalesce around the idea of “Jewish Community”, its primary goal being self-survival, or is there some ideal that “Jewish Community” carries within it that we use Jewish Community as a vehicle for sustaining? I think when you grasp onto those questions, and incorporate the answers into your proposal, it will be even stronger than it is now.

  2. Frank says:

    I like the idea, but the underlying premise is not something I really agree with. “…[U]nless the Jewish Operating System is better suited to successfully navigate the new world created by the Information Age—the collective identity of the Jews will be lost, and all that will be left are small groups of spiritually committed Jews who act autonomously in following their own individual search for meaning.” To say that about a religion and people that have existed for thousands of years, when there has been new technology invented all the time, seems to make too dire a prediction in the hopes of pushing the project. Aside from that, the project looks neat.

  3. Vega says:

    I would like to know more about Mr. Beery’s philosophy, theories, and ideas. I can’t get a good grasp of them here. Before I would buy into his “manifesto,” I would have to know what he actually thinks.

    I have one major concerns after trying to learn more though the links provided above. Not to be a prude, but I was a bit taken aback by the drunken brainstorm sessions described on Present Tense. It reinforced my feeling that there needs to be some structure and oversight of the “nodes” and other activities.

  4. Vega says:

    Maybe that is a way to get older people involved.

  5. Gary Kulwin says:

    I really enjoyed reading your proposal, Ariel. We share two deep passions – Zionism and technology – and I found it quite interesting how you managed to synthesize the two within your conceptual framework.

    You made me think quite a bit about your “operating system” metaphor – i.e. the idea that the leading monotheistic religions (i.e. Judaism. Christianity, and Islam) are each different operating systems that derive from a common code base (perhaps we are the UNIX of the religious world, while the other two are like different versions of Linux – creative derivatives from the original model).

    You seem to describe ancient Hellenism (and its presumed descendant, modern Western liberalism) as some very different kind of operating system (perhaps analogous to MS Windows vs. the UNIX-Linux family). However, I would use a slightly different computer metaphor for modern, transnational culture – it really acts as a “virtual machine” (similar to the Java Virtual Machine, or the MS .NET Framework) that can ride on top of almost any operating system.

    For those unfamiliar with my “geek speak” – a virtual machine is a body of software that essentially acts as a buffer between the programmer’s code (i.e. the programs that you use to get something done on your PC) and the underlying operating system. In other words, if I write code that compiles as a Java program (i.e. it runs “on top of” the Java Virtual Machine), then the underlying operating system is almost irrelevant – if the OS supports Java, then it can almost certainly run my program correctly. Indeed, it is almost impossible for the average user (or a professional, at first glance) to tell if they are running a “virtual machine” program (that is built on top of Java or .NET code libraries) or a “native code” program (that communicates its instructions directly to the operating system).

    Like a virtual machine, western culture is a meta-culture rather than a “foundational culture”. One can be an active participant in German, French, Japanese, etc. culture and still participate fully in the global meta-culture, I think. Indeed, cultural elements have become so well blended together that it is hard to tell anymore where a “national culture” ends and the “global culture” begins.

    While the cultural elite in some countries (i.e. some French intellectuals, for example) worry about the encroachment of global culture upon their local culture, I’m not sure that this threat is really as big as they may think. Furthermore, I think that the threat that the Jewish People face is quite different – it is not a direct battle between Jewish and Western culture per se, but a confusion caused by the diminishing of the importance of the “operating system” (i.e. Judaism and Jewish life) when all of one’s needs can be met through the “virtual machine” (secular mass culture and its commercial life). When our beliefs are not directly challenged, but merely diminished in importance, it is hard to fashion a creative response that emphasizes the continuing importance of these underlying beliefs.

    I personally think that what the best project proposals could do (including yours and the others presented in this forum) is not “upgrade” the Jewish OS per se, but provide a clearer alternative to the default, dominant culture (sort of like those clever Windows versus Mac commercials that have been running across the U.S. and the Internet for some time now). In other words, you can participate in modern culture either in Israel or in the Diaspora.

    Think about walking around a shopping mall in either country; the mall in Israel is no less modern than its counterpart in the U.S., even though it somehow feels much more “Jewish”. The real differences seem to appear, in my opinion, from the countless little details that differentiate one version of the mall experience from its alternative. Just as Java programs never seem to run exactly the same on different operating systems (the underlying OS does have some impact, after all), the shopping mall experience (or any other type of mundane, everyday activity in the modern world) can never become completely homogenized. Indeed, I think that one of the truly beautiful, powerful things about Judaism is its ability to blend the sacred into the mundane (or even, profane) activities that we humans engage in.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if my comments above were in agreement with you, disagreement with you, or just leading off on a completely different tangent. I just want to say that your writing has been a real inspiration to me, and I hope to read more from you in the future.

    Regards, GK

  6. As someone who was at the drunken brainstorm in NYC, I can tell you that it was one of the most energizing and wholesome events I’ve attended in the city. And sure, I’m not unbiased, as an editor at PresenTense and a friend and collaborator’s of Ariel’s, but I’m a veteran of more NYC young professionals events than I can count, and I can assure you that there was no debauchery, and much collaborative spirit within what was very much a defined-structure for creativity. Total amount of alcohol consumed was maybe a dozen beers and half a bottle of wine for about 15 people. So don’t worry–even a self-proclaimed prude would have felt no pressure to imbibe, only to inspire.

  7. thenewjew says:

    Vega,

    Ariel’s website, http://www.arielbeery.com, as well as the many others that you can see linked in the about the author section give a wide range of writing and thinking about Ariel’s ideas, and even include papers he has written on the subject. I also encourage you to check out PresenTense Magazine (http://www.presentensemagazine.org/mag/).

    I think the drunken brainstorm is a bit of a joke. The Jews are not a drinking people and if you saw the ideas that came out of sessions like these, it would confirm that there was a collective height of consciousness.

    As far as the organization of the nodes, I am sure that any highly organized system would have to have managers in order to ensure their high quality. Maybe Ariel can say more on this.

    Thanks for your comment,

    Maya

  8. thenewjew says:

    Hi Frank,

    My understanding of this quote is not so much related to the Information Age itself (not something like if Jews don’t use how to use the internet properly, that’s the end of us), but moreover that we have long been aware of the fact that there is a growing separation between the older and younger generations when it comes to Jewish identity. With each subsequent generation, we move farther and farther away from having a healthy assurance of Jewish continuity. Therefore, we must act now to change this. The “now” coincides with the Information Age, so how can we use one to help the other.

    Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg’s study from the Institute for Jewish and Community Research released this October, “Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and their Alienation from Israel show, for instance, that approximately 50% of Jews surveyed under the age of 35 agree with the statement that “Israel’s detscruction would be a personal tragedy” (p. 9). A scant 55% say they are “Comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state” (p. 10).

    I encourage you to take a look at the report, which is an easy read, if you haven’t done so already. The link below is to the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies’ publications section of their website and you can access many other resources there as well.

    Link: http://www.acbp.net/publications.html

    Thanks for your comments, Frank. I’m interested in hearing more of your ideas as well.

    Maya

  9. […] “Translating Judaism for the Post-Digital Age: Creative Zionism and a Renewed Jewish People” by Ariel Beery– UPDATED! Read the post here […]

  10. lirun says:

    fascinating area to delve in..

    i think the digital age presents opportunities never seen before for traditional jewish global connectivity.. whereas previously jews stood out in their ability to maintain effective worldwide connections – nowadays i think we continue to hover well above even average western populations in social connectivity given our extremely rapid technology adoption habits | high levels of education | and the technological sophistication of israel amongst other reasons..

    as a blogger i am continuously amazed by how connected we are and remain and how much new media and infrastructure have assisted us to promote values and continue our neverending interrogation of life..

    i think traditionally the notion of young teaching old has been an issue for us.. i know my grandparents (whether from poland or sudan) lead the zionist awakening in their families and these days the youth continues to trailblaze through innovation entrepreneurship and other forms of normative risk taking that are worthy of everyone’s attention..

    look fwd to reading more of your thoughts..

  11. Anti-Racist Blog says:

    I enjoyed reading this submission to the contest. I had read the “Jews to watch in 2008” a couple weeks ago, and I specifically remember reading Ariel Beery’s profile, and being impressed with his projects. It is impressive that he has already tapped into funding resources, and has partners. Whether or not he wins the contest, it seems that his efforts will luckily continue. That is something I hope other projects featured here can replicate.

    More generally, I have to add that the projects featured in Maya’s coverage of the contest have all been fascinating, and well thought out. If the contest only consisted of the ideas Maya featured, I would have a hard time picking one. I can only imagine what other amazing ideas were submitted that we have no idea about.

    I think it is interesting that among the ideas I have seen here, there are quite a few similarities, and parallel areas of focus. For example, use of the Internet, trying to define/restore Jewish identity and peoplehood, empowering Jews to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of the larger community outside of the typical federation system, creating spaces where Jews can interact, and trying to give Jews the incentive and opportunity to opt-in to Jewish life. Although people have different approaches, it is really great, and inspiring to see projects from around the world proposing ideas to ensure the continued vitality, and success of the Jewish people.

  12. thenewjew says:

    Lirun,

    Did you get a chance to look at my e-mail on your Israeli street art post? I would love to feature some of your work on Global Voices Online. Looking at all the images on your blog, I was so impressed. It’s obvious you have the heart of an artist. I know the e-mail you posted with here is a different one, so I want to be sure you received it.

    I think you make a great observation, building on Ariel’s own, about Jewish connectivity. It really is a strange thing that something we have done so competently throughout our history is stay connected, and now that is sliding. We are actually lagging behind others in many respects technologically speaking in the field of Jewish philanthropy, which is somewhat hard to explain. No one seems to really be able to explain why beyond poking at the symptoms. Any ideas?

    Yesterday I wrote about the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley’s new YouTube video, which one of the very few of its kind. I’m talking to the Federation now to find out what we can learn from them, and an interview will be up shortly. Here’s the link if you’re interested: https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/jewish-federation-of-silicon-valley-best-practice-model-for-using-technology-to-get-your-message-across/

    Also, in Tsvi Bisk’s Bronfman proposal, “Covenant with the Future,” he talks a lot about how Jews are on the leading edge of science and technology and how based on our history of excelling in these fields and in our traditional competence at connecting with each other globally, how we are poised to be leaders this realm in the future. Here’s the link on that one: https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2008/01/09/bronfman-big-idea-series-covenant-with-the-future/.

    On the other hand, in the Israeli blogosphere, even more so than the mainstream blogosphere, I am overwhelmed by our generosity toward and interest in each other. There is no question that we feel connected and caring toward each other (much more, I think, than in the Jewish blogosphere in general).

    Lastly, your grandparents are from Poland and Sudan? I’m fascinated. What a combination. Lots of good food? (But wait, that’s all of us.)

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,

    Maya

  13. thenewjew says:

    Esther,

    Thanks for stopping by and making sure our views of your drunken debauchery were corrected.🙂 You are probably one of the most qualified people to speak on that in the entire young Jewish community, as I get a feeling you have been to a ridiculous number of networking type events.

    Look forward to seeing you here again- and to my readers, go visit Esther at My Urban Kvetch, or one of her other enterprises. That’s: http://myurbankvetch.com. She’ll keep you entertained.

    Maya

  14. thenewjew says:

    ARB,

    Currently on my mind is an interview project involving movers and shakers in the Jewish world to be featured on The New Jew. Here you’ve met Ariel and Esther, hopefully, would be included, as well as many others. I’m working on a couple different versions on this, but you’ll see the results soon enough. I think it would be really good for all of us. The interviews would be something like my interview with Mark Charendoff of the Jewish Funders Network, but younger in feel.

    Link: https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2008/01/01/the-future-of-jewish-philanthropy-an-interview-with-mark-charendoff-of-the-jewish-funders-network/.

    Ariel’s projects are amazing and I hope to become more intimately involved in them very soon. I think the work he is doing now will really be a boon to the community in the coming years. He is doing us a great service in the style of the European cafes or salons and Jewish idea incubators. You know I think we are on the cusp of a Jewish r/evolution, and Ariel will be part of moving us from cusp to crest.

    I too am so incredibly inspired by the proposals that the authors have been so generous in sharing with us. I can’t wait to see how they will be used.

    You make some great points about the similarities among all of our proposals. I think the patterns really help us see where we stand as a community and where we need to go. Our visions are articulated along the same lines and it seems we have the same tools in line as well.

    Regarding your e-mail, I have done some promotion, so has Shai Litt, and Gary Kulwin has through his blog as well. I will happily draw up an e-mail that you can use as a base for advertising if that’s what would be easiest for you. Just let me know your preferences. In the meantime, the posts are listed together here:
    https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2007/12/11/the-big-ideas-series-introducing-the-first-three-proposals-for-jewish-communal-innovation/.

    Maya

  15. thenewjew says:

    Shai,

    I had a similar reaction when first reading Ariel’s proposal about how it resembles the Immigrant Aid Society and Jewish communities of the early 20th century.

    Thinking about the salon/incubator model along the lines of a salon of heroes is a great idea. In high school, I read a book called “Nosotros Somos Dios” (“We are G-D”). It was a book about the Mexican revolution, so the literal parallels are not direct, but what I took out of the book informed how I have envisioned the Jewish community and my own volunteer work since.

    Putting aside the religions connotations, if we may, the idea that in human communities we can and should act as if we are powerful agents of change is one that I believe in strongly. We need to feel ownership over our own lives and the lives of our kehillah, and act accordingly. I am trying to keep my quoting of Herzl and Ben Gurion to a minimum– it’s tricky to avoid when we are on the topic of grand scale Jewish renovation and innovation– but we must remember Herzl, who said of Zion, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

    Jews do their best thinking in communities, and I think it’s about time for another Basel Convention.

    I hope Ariel will join us in addressing some of your other questions. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

    Maya

  16. thenewjew says:

    Gary,

    It’s funny that you speak about the computer and operating system metaphors. Someone else used a great comparison in a similar vein, but I can’t seem to find it. Was it you? Shai? Rav Morey? Do you remember something like that catching your eye?

    (Shai, was it an early version of your proposal where that part somehow got cut out?)

    Gary, your comment was so much fun to read. I think that the use of your metaphor in operating systems here, especially in how you explained them using semitic origin religions is right on target. I was particularly struck by your comment here:

    “Furthermore, I think that the threat that the Jewish People face is quite different – it is not a direct battle between Jewish and Western culture per se, but a confusion caused by the diminishing of the importance of the “operating system” (i.e. Judaism and Jewish life) when all of one’s needs can be met through the “virtual machine” (secular mass culture and its commercial life).”

    This being Am Yisrael, I have a strong feeling that we will all meet someday soon and I really look forward to the sparks that will fly when we do. We are intimately connected by the power of our ideas and our desire to make positive changes.

    As far as learning more about Ariel’s ideas, it is quite a challenge to decide where to start. For you, I suggest checking out the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism first (which I think we talked about in the ‘Israeli hi-tech, questions on my mind’ post), then http://www.arielbeery.com, and wherever that leads you, and then on to PresenTense Magazine at http://www.presentensemagazine.org/mag/. (All of these are additionally linked in the “about the author” section.

    Something I particularly like about the magazine is that it is specifically geared to 20– 30 year olds. When I think about the major Jewish glossies, I think of:

    – Hadassah for women
    – Jerusalem Report for politics
    – Tikkun and Commentary for politics

    And maybe some other academic ones that I’m not giving enough credence to.

    You also have some great magazines for kids and teens now, such as JVibe and Babaganewz, but PresenTense is the only Jewish magazine I’m aware of for my age group and boy, is it popping. I think you would especially be interested in it because of the way in which they are commercializing and making edible some of the ideas we are talking about. It has tremendous appeal.

    Thanks for your great comment. Interested in hearing your responses.

    To my readers, Gary didn’t put a link this time (Gary, are you feeling okay?), so I will. Go visit Gary’s great blog, which he created to talk about the ideas presented in his Bronfman proposal for “Hebrew Nation.”

    – You can read his proposal here: https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2008/01/02/bronfman-big-idea-series-hebrew-nation-gary-kulwin/
    – And visit his blog here: http://kulwin.wordpress.com/

    Maya

  17. Shai says:

    Yes, Maya – I had a computer metaphor, too. Look under the grayed words for the bolded phrase begining with “to use computers as a metaphor”.

  18. Gary Kulwin says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Maya (and the links to my writing, of course!). I share your hope about all of us meeting someday soon. While examining the ArielBeery.COM site, I noticed this link to a JTA article that describes an exclusive retreat in Utah sponsored by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation (those Bronfmans are a very busy bunch, aren’t they?). Do you think that we can convince some foundation to bring all of us together for a long weekend to plot out the Jewish future? Perhaps one Bronfman or another has some extra tzedakah dollars to spare for this mini-project? 🙂

    BTW, you wrote that “PresenTense is the only Jewish magazine I’m aware of for my age group”. How would you classify Heeb and Zeek? Would they fall into a different category because they target a different age group, or because they contain different kinds of content? You members of “Gen Y” have definitely made Jewish life much more interesting lately; there were certainly plenty of activists around back in the eighties (when I went to college), but I think that we lacked this level of cohesion and sophistication (of course, the Internet wasn’t really around yet). I agree with your idea that we are in the midst of a Jewish “cultural revolution”, and the best is yet to come…

    Kol Tuv, GK

  19. thenewjew says:

    Shai, how true.

    Gary, here’s what I was referencing from Shai’s computer metaphor:

    “To use computers as a metaphor, the Jewish Community Incubator is a new, intuitive, user-friendly interface for Judaism and Jewish communities that:

    * Focuses on the importance of applications (deeds, mitzvot) as the essential purpose of the operating system platform (religion), and as a counterpoint to those whose predisposition is to focus almost exclusively on hardware and software specifications

    * Does not require prior knowledge of DOS, Vista, UNIX, or Leopard operating systems (religious education or Hebrew) in order to gain functional proficiency and earn a place within the user community

    * Permits users who are not part of existing Macintosh/IMB distribution networks (religious streams) to gain access to the power of the applications on terms better suited to their inclinations and budgets (their personal strengths and missions). Savvy computer users or those new to computers can become part of a broader user community by “mass customizing” their computers to “markets of one.” Once in the community, if their needs change, there will always be time to learn DOS and the other graphic interfaces, as well as to get a prepackaged computer from one of the distribution networks”

    Remembered it clearly, just not its location.

    Here’s the link: https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2007/12/31/bronfman-big-idea-series-jewish-community-incubator-shai-litt/.

    Maya

  20. Post-Zionist says:

    What about those of us who don’t believe that Zionism is the end-all-be-all? Those of us who have been turned off from Israel — perhaps by experience? Those who are repulsed by the positions and actions of Zionists leaders and fanatic Zionist ideologues? Where do we fit into Mr. Beery’s proposed Jewish future? Or do we not?

  21. Post Post-Zionist says:

    I don’t know one sane or rational “post-zionist” or Israel hater. The Jewish people as a whole would not be so bad without the negative influence of these people.

  22. Post Post-Zionist says:

    Re: Post Zionist

    I know you are concentrating on the “Creative Zionist” part of the title, but there is also the “Renewed Jewish People” part. You do fit into the scheme of things, it seems.

  23. thenewjew says:

    Post-Zionist:

    It’s a good question and reflects how many people feel, so we need to be asking it and thinking about these issues as well. What has happened in the past to make people feel the way you describe and what can and should be done to remedy it? I’m interested in hearing your own thoughts on the matter.

    In your opinion, does Judaism need Zionism? Do the Jewish people need Israel?

    If you don’t mind me asking– it may be too personal, but since you mentioned it– from where or what experiences does your repulsion source and to whom in particular are you thinking of when you talk about “fanatic Zionist ideologues”?

    I hope to learn from your thoughts, and it would help me to have some context to better formulate my thinking on the matter.

    Thanks, PZ. Looking forward to your response.

    Maya

  24. thenewjew says:

    Post-Post Zionist,

    That’s a lot of “posts.” Where does that bring us? You may be in the market for a new name sometime soon. I think two “posts” is the max.🙂

    I think you make an excellent point in suggesting that we keep in mind renewed Jewish peoplehood. However we get there, the details certainly do need to be discussed and thought about deeply, but it’s the collective of Am Yisrael that counts.

    I think of the story of Moses and Am Yisrael crossing the sea to escape their slave drivers and how many other slaves and their families chose to join with them and integrate into our peoplehood. That was a critical moment for us because it indicated that we did have the power to make change for ourselves and others and to be a leader among nations. I think, symbolically, we’re on the road again.

    Thanks for your comments, PPZ.

    Maya

  25. Maya,

    You may find this op-ed interesting.

    Paradox and struggle

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1200308094490&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    It touches on some of the themes that have been discussed on your blog recently.

    BTW, at least by news accounts, things are getting a bit uncertain over in Israel(Politically, and on the war front). I hope you and your readers stay safe. I’m pulling for you all!

    Talk to you soon.

  26. thenewjew says:

    You really keep me in line, ARB. It is exactly on target.

    I know it’s not nice, but my favorite comment was from Abdallah (a name I like anyway):

    “2. Why I Am a Zionist…
    He should have called his book “Why Am I a Zionist Who Doesn’t Live in Israel?”
    Abdallah – Israel (01/16/2008 10:14)”

    Maya

  27. A couple months ago I wrote a post (which includes an op-ed from a former NY Mayor ), that might give an answer to Abdullah’s question. It discusses why a non-Israeli (this post comes from an American point of view) would still be a Zionist. Take a look:

    http://antiracistblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/ed-koch-responds-to-dual-loyalty.html

  28. Oops, I meant Abdallah not Abdullah. I wouldn’t like it if someone called me Amti-Racist Blog. =)

  29. thenewjew says:

    ARB,

    In response to dual identities, check out the video in this entry. It’s meant for you.

    https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/5-ways-to-improve-the-jewish-reconnection-project-when-the-message-the-medium-isnt-enough/.

    As far as the American Jewish Congress, it sounds as if Mr. Rosenberg was on this trip: https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/jewish-philanthropy-arab-israelis-shun-meeting-with-jewish-donors/

    I’m in an AJC zone having written about them yesterday here:
    http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/01/16/israel-ms-magazine-shuns-ad-promoting-leadership-of-israeli-women/

    I know links can be kind of a pain sometimes, but on the bright side, the names of the articles are all displayed in the URLs, so you know what you’re getting into.

    Maya

  30. Holy cow, this is a long comments thread. And my one word of criticism to Maya is that you need to learn how to hyperlink the text itself instead of including a long URL that bleeds off the page.

    To address the comment about the difference between PresenTense and Heeb and Zeek (and to an extent, New Voices). Some of my close friends work for/write for Heeb, and I know people who write for both Zeek and New Voices. And I can tell you that they’re all really different, but part of a movement that perfectly expresses the fact that our generation (and I’m still including myself in the 30s for a few more years) is in a process of exploration.

    We’re culturally, religiously, socially, intellectually (etc, etc) exploring our connections and relationship with Judaism, and the mags are all part of that. I read them all, but in terms of devoting my time and writing, only PresenTense has given me what I’m looking for in terms of challenging my mind, helping to expand my connections to other Jews socially, pushing me to use my skills professionally, etc.

    But again, I still read Zeek, which has really refreshingly unique views eruditely conveyed, and Heeb, which has an inimitable sense of hipster style and irreverence that I would never dare. And there are others. And it’s good that there are others. And I say it all the time, I’m lucky to be living, working and writing in this time of unparalleled creativity and youthful energy, and that I count as my friends and colleagues the people who are making tomorrow happen.

    Which includes Maya, since she’s taken it on herself to share these proposals for the sake of discussion…

  31. thenewjew says:

    Hi Esther,

    You are so right. There are a number of technical glitches going on and the hyperlinking/HTML coding in comments is one of them. I am seriously in the market for a good website developer, so let me know if there is someone in your network who would like some work. I don’t need a professional, just someone with a little know-how and knowledge of WordPress is actually preferred. Most of it’s very basic, but I want to get some things fixed up. (For instance, 32 comments so far are excellent, but it shouldn’t require a trip to the optometrists– it’s not good for my older readership, especially).

    You and Gary are correct in that Heeb, Zeek, and New Voices should have been on my list. Most definitely they are at the table and should be included accordingly. Thanks for teaching us about how each one is special.

    Maya

  32. ARB says:

    Maya,

    When you said “it shouldn’t require a trip to the optometrist” to read your site I assume you are talking about text size. I use windows, and internet explorer, and on the top of the screen there are a number of options, including “file,” edit,” “view,” ect. If you click on “view,” then go down to text size, you can make the text on the screen larger for your computer. Individual computer users can modify the size, so if someone sends you an eye doctor bill don’t pay it! If that’s not what you’re talking about, then never mind.

    As far as the mags you are discussing with Esther, I had never heard about them before reading about them here. I asked a few friends and they had never heard of them either. Where are they widely read (in Israel, NYC, CA)? Maybe its just where I live. I’ll try to pass the word around about them locally, since I think people would benefit from reading them.

    Hope all is well.

  33. thenewjew says:

    Not the site, but in the comment boxes. The technical glitches are driving me a little nuts right now, which is why I haven’t posted as many personal posts recently. Very energy consuming. I’m searching for a website designer to whom I won’t have to sell my left arm to afford. Do let me know if you know of anyone, please.

    Yes, the magazines Gary and Esther mention are very hot right now. New Voices just relaunched this fall into a much better format. All three have websites, so you should definitely check them out and report back on your opinion.

    Maya

  34. Post-Zionist says:

    I’m not going into detail about my experience of having lived in Israel. I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to try to disabuse me of the conclusions I’ve reached from my own life experience, and knowing the way these things usually go, I will quickly become the focus of several personal attacks from people who find it impossible to believe there could be anything wrong with the Jewish State, so obviously it’s that there’s something wrong with me.

    With that in mind, I believe that the Jewish people’s redemption by their own hands in the land of Israel is about as impractical as belief in redemption at the hand of the Messiah. I believe in Diaspora Nationalism, not Zionism, which, if it was intended to be a salve for anti-Jewish oppression, in this age, it has led to nothing but anti-Jewish oppression — Jew on Jew, and goy on Jew.

    As per Zionist leaders and fanatic ideologues who make me ill, look no further than the Conference of Presidents, the Zionist Organization of America, the entire contributorship and readership of Commentary, the Weekly Standard, the NY Sun, the Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva, the smug pro-Israel bloggers, their Arab-and-Liberal-Jew-hating commenters, the OU, the URJ, both AJCs, and on and on and on… Have you read the comments people leave on the Jerusalem Post’s website? Uch, who would want to share a country with those people, let alone peoplehood?

  35. Shai says:

    PZ, you propose Diaspora Nationalism as an alternative. I’m not sure what that is, and why you think it would achieve better results than Zionism is achieving. WHy do you think so?

    What does that look like, how does it accomodate Jews who don’t think as you do (the ones who make you “ill”), what is your vision for how that builds a community, how do you relate to Jews (Zionist and not) who live in Israel (that is, not in the Diaspora), and how do you sustain your belief for generations in the future? I’m not familiar with this idea – I’d like to know if you have a vision, and even, if you submitted it to the Bronfman contest.

    Most post-Zionists (I can’t think, actually, of exceptions at the moment – I hope there are some) just grouse about how Israel and the Jewish community leadership dissappoints them, how blind they are, how they should know better, etc., without really have a real plan for an alternative other than to assimilate because they believe the very idea of a Jewish community or Jewish values is anachronistic (or, ought to be), but you seem to imply you’ve got a plan, and I’m not sure from what you said that you believe the usefulness of Jewish community has passed.

    What is your idea, and what is your plan for achieving it? I think Maya’s question is a good on not because your particular experiences are of interest to me, but because I’m interested in knowing your unstated assumptions that lead to your conclusions. For example, I recall Thomas Friedman’s reaction to the Israeli invastion of Lebanon back in teh 1980’s. He described himself as a bit of an Israel fanatic. He put Israel on a pedestal, as many Jews did then. But his unstated assumption was that the Jewish state was different from any other state with respect to how it defends what it sees as its interests, that somehow its actions are more holy or ought to be. When he discovered this was not the case, he responded as though he wanted his money back – that he’d been sold a “bill of goods”, and he was careful not to be fooled again. THus, some of his observations were probably harsher than they’d otherwise be. But the key point was his assumption that Israel was in some way ideal.

    I bring this up as an example, because if I were to ask Thomas Friedman whether his plan for “changing the way Jews and the Jewish community think about themselves” was “Diaspora Nationalism”, I’d want to know what his assumptions were about the Diaspora, Nationalism, the future of the Jewish community, Jewish identity, etc., were.

    So, I’m asking you, if you care to respond, what makes your view “tick”, or is “Diaspora Nationalism” just what’s left after you pare away all the stuff you don’t like?

  36. Proud Zionist says:

    Post-Zionism believes that Israel is “impractical.” What does that mean, that you should wipe a country of over 6 million people off the map? Tell me a country that is “practical,” and I’ll show you dozens that are not. But I don’t hear you complaining about them. This one-sided Israel and Zionism bashing is unfair to say the least.

    The bashing of right-wing media, individuals and groups doesn’t justify your position that Zionism is bad one iota. Right-wingers exist in every country in the world, and among every ethnic and religious group.

    You have not backed up your point one bit. If that’s the best you got, then it doesn’t look like you are going to change any minds.

  37. Post-Zionist says:

    Shai–

    Your first mistake is assuming that identity is supposed to be “results oriented.” How is being Dominican results oriented? How is being Vietnamese results oriented? What Swede wakes up in the morning and asks, “Yes, but what does my Swedish identity do for myself and the world?” It’s utterly ridiculous. For everyone else in the world, being who they are is incidental. Only for us must it be “results oriented.”

    Can I not take pleasure in having a culture for the sake of culture in-and-of-itself? Can I not be a Jew simply because I’m enamored with with the inquisitiveness, the iconoclasm, the sarcasm, the self-deprecation, the art, the music, the language, the literature, the philosophy, the (approximation of) morality — all that which comprises my culture? Does it have to be for any reason other than it’s own self? Are you serious when you ask “What does that look like?” Loving your culture without a bottom line?

    Perhaps if we obligated Jews less they’d feel like being Jewish is less of a burden and more of something to delight in. (Yes, yes — I know, how terribly selfish and un-Jewish.)

    Shai, what I find intriguing about Jewish identity is that it’s neither either-or nor one-size-fits-all. There are many Judaisms, not a single Judaism. And I can identify Jewishly in any way that suits me and build communities around common interests, rather than around forced dependencies built up around the dogmatic fear of ever-impending annihilation. I conjecture that our acts of desperation — the sacrifices we make (often ethically) to insure our survival — are the greatest cause of our suffering and the greatest reasons why Jews abandon their relationship to the Jewish community en masse, whether they be American Jews or Israeli Jews (who, you might notice, have been emigrating to Germany, of all places, in record numbers).

    I believe that the American Jewish community is the quintessential Diaspora Nationalist Jewish community. We are proud to be American Jews. As it’s been said, we are not guests in someone else’s house. Rather, we are part of the foundation. We helped build this country. It is our home. We are respected here, and enjoy greater access and responsibility than we’ve ever achieved historically in Diaspora. I’m proud of those achievements. I’m proud that we lead in every field in which we apply ourselves here, whether academic, political, artistic, economic.

    Only a handful of ignorant bigots would suggest those achievements insignificant. Among those ignorant bigots, I include not only traditional anti-Semites, such as neo-Nazis, but likewise, the American Jewish leadership and Zionist leadership, who constantly harp that we are disappearing! That we are dwindling in our numbers! That we are dying out! That we are Hellenistic traitors! That we are abandoning our responsibilities to our communities! That we are abandoning our heritage! That we are absolving ourselves of our obligations! Israeli journalists covering the American Jewish community open every article as though they were examining a species headed for extinction.

    And yet, I look around, and none of this could be further from the truth. We’re in the midst of a Jewish renaissance. There has never been so many options for Jews to identify freely, to feel themselves Jewish in any number of ways, to connect with other Jews in so many unique ways. Reform and Orthodox Judaism are growing. Independent minyanim are flourishing. Matisyahu had the number four album in America. Jon Stewart is the most popular television celebrity in America. There are more Jewish t-shirt boutiques cropping up then there are Jews. New yeshivas and day schools are cropping up everywhere. Studies are showing that intermarried couples are more and more often raising their children Jewishly.

    But we’re dying out! Dying I say! And the Kossacks are coming! Nuclear annihilation is around the corner! Islamofascist terrorism is on every doorstep! That’s we we need a Jewish state! After all, our destruction is imminent if we don’t promote legislation to help Israeli arms dealers unload arms for the US who can’t sell directly to third-world dictators! Oh, and don’t forget to strip those Palestinians of their human rights, because we all know that that’s easing tensions between Jews in diaspora and the ever-growing world Muslim population.

    Pardon my French, but are you f*cking kidding me? Is that supposed to be my motivation? If so, I’m taking my ball and going home.

    I don’t grouse about Jewish leadership because I think that Jewish identity is anachronistic. I’m a very proud Jew. I attend services regularly, I keep a kosher home, I read countless Jewish books, I collect Jewish art, I attend Jewish music and theatre events, I donate to Jewish causes, I date Jewish exclusively… Nothing that Morton Klein or Malcolm Hoenlein does is ever going to change that. But you can be certain, so long as Klein and Hoenlein have the ear of the President of the United States, and they are using that access to lobby for policies which I consider to be destructive and inconsistent with my Jewish values, no organizations they have anything to do with will ever receive an ounce of my support, financially or otherwise.

    A plan, a plan, a plan. We must have a plan!

    Must we? Must we have a plan for the Jewish future? Are you so afraid that the Jews will become extinct that you must have a plan to save the Jews as you would the whales? Why not let the market decide? Either Judaism has an inherent value and purpose in the world or it doesn’t. No amount of rebranding, repackaging, remodeling, or reinterpreting is going to save a beached whale. I’m not worried about the Jews disappearing. I worry about them multiplying only to fill up kollels and IDF units. God forbid we should marry and breed Jews incidentally because we happen to be Jews who want to have children. No — we should only have children if we’re doing it for the sake of the Jewish future! Puh-leeeeze!

  38. Post-Zionist says:

    Proud Zionist–

    Blah. Blah. Blah. I said that I think Zionism is impractical — that it has failed to serve its intended purpose, which was to alleviate Jewish suffering (and impossible task if ever there was one). Indeed, I would argue that it is causing as much Jewish suffering as it sought to offset. And worse yet, it is causing Jews to suffer at Jewish hands. Here are a couple of cases in which you won’t disagree: What the f*ck are those people from Gush Katif still doing living out of shipping containers? Why do Holocaust survivors need to fight for lunch money when the state rakes in billions in restitution funds? Is the Israeli government for real?!

    Now — did I say that, because of this, Israel should be wiped off the map? No. Did I intimate that? No. But you stuck those words in my mouth didn’t you? Yes. Always leave it to a right-winger to turn you into a strawman.

    Oh boohoo, I’m singling out Israel. I’m singling out a country I spent years living in, paying taxes in, volunteering in, working in… Oh boohoo. How dare I do such a thing, without also assailing countries I’ve never lived in, and their nationalisms, which are entirely irrelevant to me as a Jew. Oh boohoo, I haven’t attacked Cambodian nationalism! I haven’t decried Turkmenistan as a failed state! That I’m not Camodian and have never set foot in Turkmenistan is obviously irrelevant, because, if I’m going to be fair-minded, I clearly must include all the countries that are completely irrelevant to me in my critique.

    Yep, you’re right, right-wingers exist in every country and among every ethnic and religious group. But they’re not my problem. The right-wingers in Mexico aren’t speaking in my name. The right-wingers in Finland don’t claim that I am a race traitor. The right-wingers in New Zealand aren’t saying that I’m a disgrace to God and my ancestors because I won’t help them get guns to kill the Arabs they’ve been occupying for 40 years. The right-wingers in Azerbaijan aren’t calling me self-hating and publishing lists of me and my friends on the Internet, or distributing email newsletters to the heads of every major Jewish organization in America and Israel insisting we be blacklisted and that not a dime of community funding ever reach our projects.

    Are you done making stupid arguments yet?

  39. Shai says:

    Thanks for your response, PZ. I understand your view better now. I think that you’ve pulled a single thread out of Judaism that causes it to lose content, though, and that is the sense of obligation to society and community. It is from this sense of obligation that we derive our plans, our results orientedeness, our prognostications, and all the other things that you described. It is, in fact, precisely that that makes us different from Cambodians and others. What’s wrong with being different, when there can be a lot right with it? Why can’t the viva la differance you espouse within the evolving Jewish sphere be something that can just as legitimately be expressed in a communal and societal sphere by groups?

    At the same time, I’m puzzled by your criticism of our results-orientedness why you used results-orientedness standards to prove your point that everything is OK. Is it what you believe, or you’re trying to calm we “results-orientedness-Jews” down?

    By the way, I agree that the “renaissance” you describe is largely positive. My only question to you PZ, is don’t you think that because you’ve disemboweled Jewish culture of a sense of obligation to others, that this renaissance is unsustainable for us as a group? How can “it feels good to me” by itself (I can understand how it works in combination with communal identity) really work as a way to generations of people dedicated to the values that bind us as a group?

    Realize, I’m not trying to depricate your view, but rather to learn to appreciate them. They way you put your view I feel is a bit amplified, but that’s OK – it helped me to understand you better.

  40. thenewjew says:

    Post-Zionist,

    I welcome your ideas and perspective, but in order to comment here you must be respectful of all commenters. No insults as that gets us nowhere.

    Maya

  41. thenewjew says:

    Dear Readers,

    Since we have a Proud Zionist and a Post Zionist posting (both “PZ”), please use their full names so that we can differentiate. Thanks.

    Maya

  42. Shai says:

    PZ, one more thing – imagine a place where Jews get together to discuss things like their values, where they work things out and put their expectations on the table. Imagine these Jews all have the same treasury of sources to refer to when they argue it out. I personally find yours and Proud Zionists responses fascinating in this regard, because each of you are stressing different aspects of Jewish values (respect for human life and human rights vs. respect for self survival) but neither of you took the time to state what they were. You basically are shouting at each other.

    With regard to the Palestinians and Israelis and their conflict, it’s obvious where both of you fall in terms of how you see the credibility of the threat to Israeli Jews and Jews generally, and how you weigh that against the threat to us as individuals and as a society by having made the specific moral choices we made.

    From my point of view, I find these arguments frustrating because they resort to melodrama and sacrasm before they resort to rationality. They do this because melodrama and sarcasm works in our society. I for one find that to be something that has to be overturned.

    My proposal is essentially an attempt to make our values and expectations explicit. If once we’ve done that and in the process of arguing it out (as opposed to shouting it out) we come to our individual conclusions that you are right, or alternatively that Proud Zionist is, then great.

    I don’t think we gain anything by stacking the deck against one view or the other. At the same time, views such as those by Joachim Martillo, or the assertion that we are by nature as Jews “self depricating”, or as Arthur Koenstler once quipped that the patriotism of the Jew is self-hate, I just don’t see that as a value, PZ. There are Jews who do that, but that’s called neurosis, not Jewishness.

    I resonated with what you said when you started your response – that you wish to take pleasure in culture for its own sake. But where you and I differ drastically it seems is that I believe that communities are not a spectator sport. I know I’m putting words into your mouth here and I apologize for making an assumption that might be wrong, but it seems to me that what you are describing is a society that is consumed by you, not something you create or take a share in. Your view is the view of the anarchist, and mine is communitarian. These two views also have been discussed extensively in Jewish sources, and the weight of the sources favors communitarianism. When you build an anarchial overlay on it you are cannibalising Jewish culture, not creating it. That’s how it seems to me, anyway.

    I can’t really blame you for that – you’re confronting the world the way you found it. Almost everybody consumes community and society. Very few create it today. What repulses me about your perspective is that its commonality leads, I feel, to a consumption of social equity that leaves our communities bankrupt. I’m seeking a way to build the Jewish community not just because as you seem to assert there is some intrinsic value in Jewish community, but because I believe that communities are the best context for personal growth and finding meaning in life. I believe that across the board – not just for Jews. But for Jews, the essential difference is the idea of obligation vs. volunteerism. Yes, there will be times when we are obligated, for the sake of the community we benefit from, to weigh carefully our responses that undermine the community even when such undermining advances our own objectives and values. Where those trade-offs occur is a matter of personal decision, but one thing seems to me clear and that is that the decision is a rational one that should be carefully weighed. We need a venue where this can happen, where we can influence and be influenced based on the value-content of our potential decisions. It is that, PZ, that I hope to create with the Jewish Community Incubator. It would not be a place where your views, though I disagree with some of them, would be silenced – the opposite. They would be confronted head on, as would their opposite views. The decision of how to act, in the end, is appropriately with each of us.

  43. Post-Zionist says:

    Maya–

    I apologize. As I said, I’m sick to death of Right-wingers and their arguments and they have a tendency to push my buttons and set me off. I will restrain myself going forward.

    Shai–

    It’s not that I don’t feel a sense of obligation to my fellow Jew, nor that I think Jews shouldn’t feel a sense of obligation to one another. I just don’t believe that that is the bottom line of being either Jewish or being a practitioner of Judaism. My sense of obligation shouldn’t come at the barrel of a gun. It shouldn’t be because some yids in a boardroom contrived a plan to make me feel obligated to other Jews, whether in my backyard or across the globe. And I worry that the more Jewish professionals focus on the concept of obligating Jews towards one another, rather than focusing on strengthening Jewish culture for it’s osn sake, the less the next generation will see a point in being Jewish other than out of a painfully ingrained sense of obligation.

    Every major Jewish organization now has a “peoplehood” department, an “Israel” department, a “continuity” department, and an “education” department. But how many have a “cultural enrichment” department? It seems like the interest is only in perpetuating a hollow Jewish identity that is predicated mostly on a national identity (that’s constantly purported to be in danger of extinction). The litmus test is no longer being religious, or being culturally involved, but whether you cast your lot in with Israel and are willing to donate money and energy to lobbying on its behalf, whether on campus or on Capitol Hill. Yet go to any campus and you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of young Jews who feel completely alienated from Hillel because Hillels do not tolerate views critical of Israel, nor do they tend to invest resources in much beyond religious and pro-Israel activities.

    You ask, “How can ‘it feels good to me’ by itself really work as a way to generations of people dedicated to the values that bind us as a group?”

    The fact is, you’re never going to get Jews to commit themselves to Jewish lives if it DOESN’T feel good to them. Who would involve themselves in something that brings them only misery?

    As per “the values that bind us as a group,” — with the RIght-wingers running around condemning the Left-wingers as self-haters and enemies of Israel (see Alvin Rosenfeld’s paper on Progressive Jews, or perhaps, Ariel Beery’s own piece attacking young Progressive Jews for caring as much about Lebanese war victims as much as they do Israeli victims of war); and with the Orthodox running around condemning non-Orthodox Jews (in particular Reform Jews), as well as queer Jews, feminist Jews, and so forth; with the Left-wingers running around condemning the Right-wingers as crazy lunatics; and with the non-Orthodox Jews running around condemning the Orthodox; ie., with everyone constantly at each other’s throats, what binding together as a group do you see us having other than in name and theoretical construct? Our community is hyperfractious and for good reason. I do not cast my lot in with, for example, the Jews of Hebron. I do not cast my lot in with the rioting hareidim in Mea Shearim. I do not cast my lot in with, say, those who would deny the Armenian genocide for the sake of Israel’s security interests. Those folks could disappear from the Jewish community tomorrow and I’d shed not a tear.

    And frankly, I do see self-deprecation as a value. It means you don’t take yourself too seriously. That you recognize that you are imperfect, that you have faults, and that there is room for improvement. It means that you’re honest about yourself — but humorously so. In that, you’re not so down on yourself that you become paralyzed and incapable of making those improvements. Mussar = self-deprecation. Recognizing that you are a benoni, if not a rasha, and striving towards becoming a tzaddik, is self-deprecation. Or as one great Hasidic master put it, a true tzaddik will perform the mitzvot fully and still doubt that he has accomplished anything.

    I certainly don’t believe that being Jewish is a spectator sport. I don’t daven in Reform congregations, not because I think that there’s anything with Reform Judaism, but because I can’t stand watching a cantor on a pulpit acting as if they’re giving a concert, rather than praying for myself. Likewise, I can’t stand having Jewish leaders speak on my behalf rather than giving me a voice to express my own concerns. I would rather each Jew have their individual voice recognized than allow others to misrepresent us on the national or world stage.

    I also disagree with your assessment of the anarchical overlay. I agree that Rabbinic Judaism favors the communitarian, and I don’t oppose that value. But I also keep in mind “echad hay Avraham.” The countercultural spirit of Judaism hinges upon being “one man against the world.” One must be a Jew among Jews, or in other words, an outcast and a loner among outcasts and loners, when the situation calls for it. Moshe Rabbeinu smashed the luchos rather than joining the Jews worshipping the egel. To truly be a Jew means that you’re willing to go it alone if you have to.

    “Where those trade-offs occur is a matter of personal decision, but one thing seems to me clear and that is that the decision is a rational one that should be carefully weighed. We need a venue where this can happen, where we can influence and be influenced based on the value-content of our potential decisions.”

    That doesn’t sound like a free market to me in which the best ideas thrive. That sounds like a committee that decides which ideas get traction and which do not. It also sounds like the cards are stacked against anyone who doesn’t share the core values around which the group has coalesced. It also sounds like Abe Foxman’s reasoning for denying the Armenian genocide. When carefully weighed against one another — the moral value of standing beside other victims of genocide, vs. harming relations between Israel and Turkey — Israel’s “practical” needs will outweigh morality any day of the week.

    “It is that, PZ, that I hope to create with the Jewish Community Incubator. It would not be a place where your views, though I disagree with some of them, would be silenced – the opposite. They would be confronted head on, as would their opposite views. The decision of how to act, in the end, is appropriately with each of us.”

    So what you mean to say is, you’re a founder of PICZ (Beery I presume) and that you’ve been commenting on your own proposal under a pseudonym? For shame, for shame.

  44. Anti-Racist Blog says:

    Post-Zionism,

    I won’t even comment on your anti-Israel views, which I find off base, although you have a right to hold them. What I will comment on is your incorrect allegation that “Shai” is Mr. Beery. You really need to get your facts right.

    You stated “So what you mean to say is, you’re a founder of PICZ (Beery I presume) and that you’ve been commenting on your own proposal under a pseudonym? For shame, for shame?”

    No, for shame on you. Shai is Shai Litt, the author of the proposal called the “Jewish Community Incubator.” Maya did a write-up on his project here:

    https://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2007/12/31/bronfman-big-idea-series-jewish-community-incubator-shai-litt/

    The Jewish Community Incubator is Shai’s idea. Conversely, PICZ is the work of Mr. Beery. They are different. Do you get it now? You were wrong.

    Before you throw out allegations and insults that are baseless, and ignorant, at least try to get your fact straight.

    You owe both of them an apology.

  45. Anti-Racist Blog says:

    Oops, that would be Post-Zionist. Although I assume post-Zionist espouses post-Zionism. Just to be clear, here’s some more information on post-Zionism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-Zionism

  46. Anti-Racist Blog says:

    Post-Zionist,

    In my experience many Jewish students do not associate with Hillel because they are not pro-Israel enough, and because Hillel often is silent in the face of anti-Zionist racism. Not because Hillel is not anti-Israel enough. For example, see here:

    http://bnaibrith.ca/article.php?id=1265

    Most of what Hillel does is related to religion, not Israel (Birthright trips may be the exception). I would like to know where some of these ultra pro-Israel Hillels are located. Most of the critiques of Hillel I see are not in line with what you claim.

    I am also curious what type of activities you are up to and what kinds of projects you are pursuing that have caused right-wingers to publish your name and the names of your friends on the Internet, and write to the heads of major Jewish organizations telling them not to give you funding. Please share with us. I am curious what these people have found so objectionable.

  47. thenewjew says:

    Post-Zionist,

    I can definitively confirm that Shai Litt is not Ariel Beery according to the explanation Anti-Racist Blog provided above.

    I’m not quite clear how you arrived at that conclusion except for the fact that Shai referred to you as PZ (“Post-Zionist”) and the name of the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism is cited by the acronym PICZ.

    Maya

  48. Shai says:

    It’s almost shabbat, PZ, so I can’t comment in my usual depth. There are some points I agree with you on – there’s no doubt that the cultural aspect of Judaism can be stressed more, for example. And, I think that you are unnecessarily bipolar in some of your views. For example, “self deprication” does not mean for most of us not taking ourselves seriously. It is not the same thing as iconoclasm, or cheapening what we are in our own eyes. It’s a recognition that we, and all humanity, share the fate that we will forever be imperfect. But that’s not a reason to celebrate imperfection as a way of life – indeed, the Messianic prophecies highlight a view that (contrary to some rabbinic perspectives) humanity has the potential to evolve into better socieities, and that is the ideal. Not devolution. Self deprication, if it should be anything, it should be an iconoclasm directed inward. It should be a self-consciousness that is edgy enough to realize when we are becoming charactures of ourselves. I think that is something that a lot of Jewish anarchists are guilty of, as they make of their identity tearing down their communities while they themselves shine as beacons of justice in their own eyes. What’s necessary is a degree of humility, exactly the kind that takes ourselves just seriously enough to influence, but no so seriously that we cannot be influenced. To use a litmus test of Hillel or Jewish leadership that they can be influenced that they give equal weight to anti-Israel campaigns is, I think, a vane flattery of the legitimacy of all that anti-Israel advocates say. There is a lot to be said for Israel, and a lot that can be improved. That’s not a reason to tear it all down and start over, but is rather a reason to redouble our efforts to improve.

    It is in the process of charting the path to that improvement, for ourselves, for Israel and for our community, that I want to establish an instiutiton that helps us to evolve values as Jews that we can share in and state explicitly. I think that needs to happen for Judaism to stop being the hobby or a consumer product for some Jews. Jewish values are part of our culture, certainly not less than Matisyahu or Heeb, and I have no doubt that our communities can become stronger by all of us rebuilding our passion for them.

    I don’t doubt your passion for Judaism, PZ – especially if I guessed correctly who you are. I respect that passion and that intensity. But I think that your views regarding the thrust of what I mean by obligations (such that you’d equate it with being silent about being silent about the Armenian Genocide) is skewed. And I think that your equating “casting your lot” with people who do things you consider immoral from the perspective of Jewish values as some requirement of mine, or of Jewish culture, is also skewed. I did not suggest that silence at these events is the best course, though I do suggest that if results is what you want, you’re not going to get it by treating other people’s opinions with the same respect your opinions have gotten. The same “casting your lot” problem exists for those Jews like me who find the melodramatics of the “Israel is an apartheid state” stream of Judaism (which is to say, thsoe who identify the intensity of their Jewishness by protesting what everyone else is doing to demonstrate the intensity of their Jewishness, rather than getting down to a discussion of values and how ours differ) to be pollyanish and self-serving. These Jews HAVE been given a voice to speak – it’s just most of us disagree, nto because we’re stupid and mislead, but because your case can’t be grasped at the volume and manner its made in, because they literally force us to choose justice for others while accepting their can be no justice for us, and that we are essentially wrong, not just factually wrong

    Lastly, your argument about a free market of ideas being something that is as wreckless as you described has its birth with Von Hayek, I believe. I have another view, and many people have other views – that, indeed, is what makes it a free market, not that everyone has to agree with the opinions you’ve derived from a free market. Anarchy is an ivory tower theory that doesn’t have a single society built to its favor. Why would we choose it over the communitarian? This goes as well for the example of Moshe breaking the luchot – it’s a good example. But many people disagree with you regarding the substance of what you consider a cause that warrants standing aside for what’s right. We arent’ so bad that whatever our community, Israel, or leadership does we have to take the opposite stance. That’s just childish iconoclasm. I don’t claim that you’re always guilty of it, but I think that you are in some of the points you made.

    I respect your view – I’m learnign from it. I want to address it in my project, not sweep it under the carpet. The views I statd above are my own, not views I espouse to “inculcate”. I do, indeed, feel that the best view will win. But I think, PZ, that you need to look within and understand that you are part of a community social ecology. I want to know what you are doing to build community up, not just where you as an individual feel you need to kvetch. Leadership requires doing things. If you really believe in what you’re saying, tell me how you envision getting to the world you imagine. By all of us quittign Israel and moving to the US? Do you think the problems you describeed will disappear suddenly? That you’ll be able to put your feet up and have nothing more to complain about? I want to know what your vision is and how you’re going to get there and sustain it. Otherwise, all you’re doing is tearing down, not building. Really, I mean this with respect, PZ – I cant’ take the time now to go further – candle lighting time.

    Shabbat shalomm

  49. Post-Zionist says:

    I apologize for the misattribution. Beery calls his institute a Jewish incubator and has previously written an op-ed calling for the launch of a “ken” that would serve as a Jewish community incubator.

  50. Post-Zionist says:

    “I think that is something that a lot of Jewish anarchists are guilty of, as they make of their identity tearing down their communities while they themselves shine as beacons of justice in their own eyes.”

    Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot. You identify this as a trait among Jewish anarchists, yet every sect within Judaism tears down the other self-righteously. The Zionists assail the anti-Zionists and post-Zionists with impunity. The Reformnikim assail the Orthodox. The datim assail the chilonim. The Yiddishists assail the Hebraicists. The Conservatives assail the Liberals. Everyone thinks they’re more just and right than the other and tries to tear their ideological opponents down. We’re all guilty of that, and Jewish anarchists are no more guilty than anyone else.

    “To use a litmus test of Hillel or Jewish leadership that they can be influenced that they give equal weight to anti-Israel campaigns is, I think, a vane flattery of the legitimacy of all that anti-Israel advocates say. There is a lot to be said for Israel, and a lot that can be improved. That’s not a reason to tear it all down and start over, but is rather a reason to redouble our efforts to improve.”

    Again–a complete and utter misrepresentation of my statements and of my views. Did I say Hillel should give equal weight to anti-Israel views? Or that Hillels shouldn’t alienate Jews by making pro-Israel activism a core component of their campus mission? “Wherever we stand we stand with Israel” does not speak to those who perhaps find themselves not standing with Israel on many issues, whether it’s arming the Democratic Republic of Congo or razing Palestinian homes in Anata. I have not called for the destruction of the state of Israel. I have called for not requiring ideological and political support for the state of Israel as a prerequisite to my identification as a Jew or my participation in the Jewish community.

    “It is in the process of charting the path to that improvement, for ourselves, for Israel and for our community, that I want to establish an instiutiton that helps us to evolve values as Jews that we can share in and state explicitly.”

    12 tribes, 72 faces of Torah, hundreds of sects, countless scriptural interpretations… You’re never going to arrive at a single position we can all agree on. Rather than fighting that, why not just accept it and embrace new models for building communities (plural) around areas of overlap?

    “I think that your views regarding the thrust of what I mean by obligations (such that you’d equate it with being silent about being silent about the Armenian Genocide) is skewed. And I think that your equating ‘casting your lot’ with people who do things you consider immoral from the perspective of Jewish values as some requirement of mine, or of Jewish culture, is also skewed.”

    Oh? So when the former executive chairman of the World Jewish Congress pens an op-ed lambasting his fellow Jews for engaging in interfaith dialogue with Muslims arguing that all Muslim leaders secretly want the terrorists to win, my perspective is skewed when I say, “He doesn’t speak for me, and frankly I’d prefer if he shut the hell up?” A man who worked to destroy Israel Singer and Edgar Bronfman because he wanted to crown the hawk Lauder king of the Jewish world and push the liberals out? Opposing his reign is skewed? When the AJC issues a paper like Alvin Rosenfeld’s which says the progressive Jews can hardly restrain their “murderous hatred” of their fellow Jews; when Dore Gold issues a weekly news brief about how the New Israel Fund is the chief domestic enemy of the state of Israel; when UPZ is being pushed out of the ICC because they brought Israeli soldiers to US campuses to talk about the devastation being wreaked upon Palestinians in Hebron — I’m being skewed for saying to hell with that noise?

    “The same ‘casting your lot’ problem exists for those Jews like me who find the melodramatics of the ‘Israel is an apartheid state’ stream of Judaism (which is to say, thsoe who identify the intensity of their Jewishness by protesting what everyone else is doing to demonstrate the intensity of their Jewishness, rather than getting down to a discussion of values and how ours differ) to be pollyanish and self-serving. These Jews HAVE been given a voice to speak – it’s just most of us disagree, nto because we’re stupid and mislead, but because your case can’t be grasped at the volume and manner its made in, because they literally force us to choose justice for others while accepting their can be no justice for us, and that we are essentially wrong, not just factually wrong”

    Who are you kidding? No one on the Right is interested in honest dialogue. Did Alvin Rosenfeld’s paper look like an honest dialogue to you? Does the Conference of Presidents’ Daily Alert look like an honest dialogue? Do the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ newsletters look like an honest dialogue? Does Alan Dershowitz gunning for Norman Finkelstein’s tenure look like an honest dialogue?

    And yet what’s your greatest complaint about Left-wing Jews? That we don’t give tokhakha in a way in which you’re willing to receive it? Okay. Our complaint is that between 1 and 18 Palestinian civilians are killed every day under Israeli occupation and that the only people who care to speak up about it in our community are portrayed as a traitorous lunatic fringe.

    It’s melodramatic to point to Israeli policies that are consistent with the policies of the South African apartheid regime? As if melodrama were a worst offense than depriving a person of their basic human and civil rights because they happen to be Arab. Holding up a mirror to the Jewish community is uncomfortable because you don’t like how you look, so you’d rather shoot the messenger than straighten out the mess? Really now…

    The free market of ideas isn’t figurative. It’s a fact of life. The best ideas are going to thrive, with or without the buy in of any given institution.

    “Anarchy is an ivory tower theory that doesn’t have a single society built to its favor.”

    If your idea of healthy human relations is a dinner with friends, where everyone enjoys everyone else’s company, responsibilities are divided up voluntarily and informally, and no one gives orders or sells anything, then you are an anarchist, plain and simple.

    The only question that remains is how you can arrange for more of your interactions to resemble this model. Whenever you act without waiting for instructions or official permission, you are an anarchist. Any time you bypass a ridiculous regulation when no one’s looking, you are an anarchist. If you don’t trust the government, the school system, Hollywood, or the management to know better than you when it comes to things that affect your life, that’s anarchism, too. And you are especially an anarchist when you come up with your own ideas and initiatives and solutions.

    It’s anarchism that keeps things working and life interesting. If we waited for authorities
    and specialists and technicians to take care of everything, we would not only be in a world of trouble, but dreadfully bored—and boring—to boot. Today we live in that world of (dreadfully boring!) trouble precisely to the extent that we abdicate responsibility and control.

    Anarchy is everywhere there is mutual cooperation without anyone giving orders from the top.

    “But many people disagree with you regarding the substance of what you consider a cause that warrants standing aside for what’s right. We arent’ so bad that whatever our community, Israel, or leadership does we have to take the opposite stance. That’s just childish iconoclasm. I don’t claim that you’re always guilty of it, but I think that you are in some of the points you made.”

    Rav Kook: “Religious behavior must not be allowed to compromise our natural moral sensitivities. If indeed it does, then it is clearly misguided. We know that our behavior is derived from pure and spiritual motive when our innate sense of what is right becomes the more exalted as a consequence of its religious inspiration. If the opposite occurs and the moral quality of the individual and public response is diminished by our religious observance, then we are certainly mistaken in our path and our supposed purity is of no value.”

    If the position of the large Jewish community does not resonate with my innate sense of what is right, it is my moral obligation to speak out. I’m not a davkanik for the sake of being a davkanik. I’m a davkanik because a lot of what the Jewish community does does not resonate with my innate sense of what is right.

    “By all of us quittign Israel and moving to the US? Do you think the problems you describeed will disappear suddenly?”

    I never ever said any such thing and I will never cease to be amazed at this syndrome from which Zionists suffer, in which any criticism of Israel or ideological disagreement with Zionism is interpreted as a call for the destruction of the state of Israel and the eviction of its citizens. You people really are all insane.

    “I want to know what your vision is and how you’re going to get there and sustain it.”

    I’ll get back to you.

  51. Anti-Racist Blog says:

    Post-Zionist,

    You talk so much about Palestinian suffering. What about Israeli and Jewish suffering? Does your righteous activism extend to those people? Are you willing to direct your rhetoric, and condemnation to Palestinian terrorists, and leaders like Ahmadinejad who genuinely want Israel destroyed? Or are Zionists, Israel, and Jewish Community the only bad guys in your world-view?

  52. Post-Zionist says:

    ARB — Don’t talk to me.

  53. Shai says:

    I’ll try to put guide our replies back into the context of the “Big Idea” contest.

    My general comment to you is that if you feel “kol yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh’ does not bind you and should not bind Jews, what you think does bind them. I don’t mean to be exclusive with this question – a similar question can be asked about your being an American within your concept of Diaspora Nationalism (which I’m waiting to find out what that means). What binds you to other Americans, if all your view of community is about (it seems thus to me) is consuming what you want to consume, but producing nothing in return other than your contribution to the consumer culture (I’m referring here to your comment about consuming Jewish culture for its own sake, not for a reason)?

    How do you teach your consumer values to your children in a way that you can hope to have grand and great grandchildren (your view has been tried in Europe, where the population replacement rate is 1.52, less than needed to keep populations stable)? What values do you use in selecting a spouse and acting together to achieve objectives with others, just the mere fact that you happen to agree with them? Why get married or have kids at all? Is there nothing that is outside of an anarchist that has value? I ask this not to put you in a corner, but to show how your view is the opposite of a communitarian view, and Judaism is a communitarian view.

    Re: Your “pot meet kettle” comment. It’s no great honor to say that the anarchy you advise as communal policy isn’t worse than the rest (though, it really is in my view worse). That argument doesn’t cut it for you when Israel supporters use it to note, truthfully, that Israel’s behavior is not worse than other nations (I assert it’s even better). Why would you use it?

    You call “Zionism” impractical. I think that assertion is wrong and as I noted before, there’s never been an anarchical society that was built by anarchists (you could argue there were some destroyed by them). So, how “practical” is anarchism as an alternative, such that you pass judgment thus on Zionism?

    Our objective is to see how much common ground we Jews can produce so that we can unify and stop arguing so much. In doing this, “Kol yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh” should be a value (“all Jews are guarantors one for the other”), and you’ve said explicitly that you not only don’t espouse this view, you don’t think any Jews should have to.

    A sense of obligation to others is what makes all communities, non-Jewish ones, too, families as well, “communities”- that they look out for each other. It is the basis upon which they enter into the community to influence it, and to be influenced by it.

    Let me tell you where I think your views find their context; To use the metaphor the Talmud uses about passengers in a boat, we can argue about who the one is drilling the hole under their seat in the boat is the Jewish anarchists or whether it’s Israel in the cases that bother you. But, we have to both realize we’re in the same boat, and know that we want to be. If you want Hillel and the Jewish organizations to treat you differently, show that you care enough to sink with us when we’re wrong rather than trying to sock away your own little personal lifesaver.

    My apologies are extended for my misunderstanding of your viewpoint, PZ, in the context of your words supporting Diaspora Nationalism and calling Zionism a failure and “impractical”, but I didn’t sense in your words the care for Israel in all that that you intended.

    For me, “Standing with Israel” does not have to mean you agree with every detail of every policy of Israel. Join the club with the citizens of israel. But we’re not packing our bags, we’re here hoping we can make it better before those who advocate for our disappearance manage to succeed. So, if you’re looking for frustration about what happens in our government, you don’t have to live in America to find it.

    Yes, we’d like Palestinians and all the others that hate us to stop that and find some kind of way to live together with us here in peace, but it’s a hollow assertion that we haven’t tried to do that, and that the reason it hasn’t happened has at least as much to do with those who, sensing our efforts here as “impractical”, have given our enemies a reason to wait it out for us to vanish rather than sign and self-enforce an agreement.

    I am all for discussing things based on their merits – but to assume that just because, for example, Jewish Neo-cons can’t have supported policies that were consistent with Israeli policy except for their having been Jewish? Or that Zionism=Racism? Or that the IDF are Zionazi’s? Or that Jews are Khuzar imposters? This is just tendentious yelling and screaming, but with the purpose of undermining Israel and those who support her. It’s not a discussion of the issues, because there, when we turn down the volume and discuss matters on their merits, the opponents of Israel lose their advantage. Or as sometimes happens, they just refuse to talk.

    Here, I’m not accusing you. I was addressing a class of anti-Zionists that you seem to be a moderate form of, that peddle these views all over the net (you’ll forgive me for classifying all anti-Zionists thus, just as I forgive you for casting all Zionists as “insane”). I’m shocked at the effort some of them go to in dressing these views up – it’s psychopathic.

    Re: your comment about us never being able to find common ground. You could be right on some level, but I’m not surrendering ground to you. The reason is that my goal is not so grandiose as you presume. I’m not trying to gain across the board consensus the way you seem to be accusing me. But I don’t feel that this means a practical consensus can’t be reached.

    I’m only trying to regain for Jewish people the vocabulary and method for harvesting our cultural wisdom so that we can make their own decisions, and provide a framework within which we discuss these decisions with each other and form communal bonds based on these shared values. That we’ve lost the ability to do this is, I feel, the explanation for why Jewish communities are disintegrating (just like all other western communties that have lost a national narrative or value system to unite around) . I’m trying to develop an institution that encourages drawing on these sources an integral part of our lifestyle as Jews and communities.

    For example, you brought up socialism in one of your comments. There may be many things in common between socialism and Judaism. One thing that isn’t common is the sense that the government should be in loco parentis for the citizenry, concerning itself with raising a happy populace to the exclusion of our own efforts. In Judaism, people are to take this obligation of building and managing their communities for themselves, and when they see their fellow is hurt and in need of help, they are forbidden to wait for the government to help him but rather they should act immediately, for his sake and the donor’s sake. Why this is so, and that this is so, might be the subject of an exhibit that highlights the different viewpoints and narratives that derive and develop it. Of course, a person can walk away from that and still wish to be a socialist – I can’t stop that and don’t intend to, and I certainly don’t think his belief disqualifies him as a Jew in this regard. But if he does walk away remaining a socialist in this respect, his outlook wouldn’t be one of the 72 facets of Torah you referred to. Any of the thousands of other ways people may walk away from this experience is, as far as I’m concerned, a pretty good basis for building the common ground I referred to, much better than anarchism.

    Re: your examples of “skewed”.

    These are points of view, given by people who have demonstrated a concern for their Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel. All people are entitled to their opinion, and to be wrong. Just like you, and me.

    I have little reason to doubt, considering their contributions, that their hearts are in the right place. They, in other words, are “in the boat” and feel they are acting to prevent the boat from sinking. I feel there are both people on the right and the left that have opposite opinions about how to handle various issues in Israel, but they are “in the boat”. Though I disagree with many of his views, I respect Yossi Beilin as an example. He’s “in the boat”. His views are interesting, well thought out, visionary, and with a different enemy they might have worked as a guideline for a resolution. But, you don’t complain that he’s gained a tailwind with funding from the EU, who aren’t even part of our community and who have more to gain than lose if Israel “disappears” (the “shitty little country” school of thought), so why do so when the right wing in Israel has gained a tailwind with funding and efforts from these people you mentioned, who are Jewish, who have demonstrated their concern for the Jewish people?

    At the end of the day, there are a lot of well meaning people who want to see Israel and the Jewish community prosper (hopefully more than those who don’t care if we “disappear), who disagree how to do that, and it’s being argued out every day. Through their participation, and their concern, these Jews are building a sense of community between us, by attempting to influence it. I don’t find anything wrong with that, as long as they are “in the boat”, influenceable, and willing to allow all those who are “in the boat” (I’d like to know how you define this, since you don’t believe in kol yisrael…) a chance at influence, too.

    I do think, as an aside, that irrespective of what they do, there is no equivalent left and right wing amongst the Palestinians – no peace camp – nobody pressuring anybody from the Palestinian Diaspora to choose peace (it’s the opposite). So I don’t understand why you’re so sanguine that if those you support were in place, it’d be any better. You haven’t convinced me, nor tried to. Don’t try unless you can keep the response on topic to community building.

    Re: Honest dialogue

    It’s become difficult to find media organs that have a wide variety of perspectives and viewpoints being discussed, on their merits. News outlets make and advocate for the news these days – not just report it. I disagree with you then that the best ideas are the ones that win out in the free market – this isn’t about the best ideas it’s about advertising and marketing, just like in the real “free market”. It’s as if values have a planned obsolescence and people have to be convinced to change their ideas and get “new” ones just so they can stand in front of their neighbors without being embarrassed.

    This banalization of thought is a bane of the western world and we have an obligation to turn this around, not feed it, with more propaganda and agitprop. I don’t have a television, but at my mother’s sometimes I see what passes for news in the US – it’s a joke. Here, too, many times. But that’s the world we live in. What are you doing to change it with claims like you make? You’re making it worse, I feel.

    It is no longer difficult for a person who has adopted any political persuasion for himself to completely avoid viewpoints that he does not share. So, I can’t speak to those particular publications you mentioned as I am not familiar with them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if what you described is true. Nevertheless, as I said, it’s true of left wing publications (Guardian, Village Voice, etc.), and anybody who wants to can look at blogs like Richard Silversein’s or MondoWeiss or Orthodox Anarchist and get those points of view if they want – and they do. Even people who disagree with them on lots of things, like me.

    So, nobody’s being silenced here – the problem is that news and views no longer acts as a unifying force by rationally analyzing all sides of an argument and proposing solutions for review, but they advocate for certain views. It’s a problem of our Western Society generally, and has led to a level of fatigue regarding issues. I am hoping that at least amongst Jews at least, by providing a forum to discuss values and methods for analyzing them and making that part of our lifestyle, that eventually we can return rational analysis of all sides of an argument as a Jewish cultural trait.

    Re: Tochechka from left wing Jews

    Melodrama is not about content alone, it’s about presentation. A claim that Israel is discriminating against Arabs like SA discriminated against blacks IS melodramatic. It takes some similarities, that are just as true of other countries – especially countries who frequently try to use this claim to deligitimate Israel, and magnifies them, while ignoring all the ways it is not true. It’s self-serving tendentiousness.

    If you recall, the halacha for tochechka is not to give it if you know you won’t be listened to. That never stops some from criticizing Israel – they like to hear their voices. It’s narcisstic. It makes them feel they are righteous, by making others wicked.

    I don’t think there’s sufficient understanding amongst many left wing critics that if we were to take their advice, we’d be breakfast by tomorrow. That’s not a dismissal of them, though sometimes it is when they are tendentious, such as when they compare our policies to South Africa’s apartheid regime because it satisfies their itch. They could just as easily have stretched a bit and pointed to all the progress Israel has made in this regard. And, the issue of civil/human rights is also one that has its counterpoint, but too rare it is from such critics to notice that when someone has to choose between the right to not be slaughtered on one side has a bit more weight than the right to free travel on the other – at least they can admit the issues are difficult and wrestle with them. But no, they are judgmental. It’s not that they give tochechka, we can take that. It’s that it’s so childish in its understanding of the full scope of the challenges in ensuring those rights are delivered fully to EVERYONE (which means, also Jews) that they are babes in the wood.

    I think it’s an assessment of the enemies we face, and I resent it when people who don’t share or care about the consequences of mistakes (50% + of Jewish youth wouldn’t miss Israel if it disappeared?) offer me advice that can kill me. If they were in the same situation, I think they’d feel the same. But they’re not.

    Re: Anarchy

    Well, that’s a very pastoral definition of anarchy. Using it, I am an anarchist. Imagine my shock.

    It seems to me anarchists have some of the same problems defining “anarchy” as Jews have defining “Judaism”. On Wikipedia, there must be a dozen different perspectives, and none of them agree with each other much, and all of which are “Ivory Tower” (they never produced a functional anarchistic society).

    I left that article scratching my head, and I surely didn’t come away from it having the impression that anarchy is just about being willing to make decisions for yourself and taking responsibility for them. What I can get from what you wrote is that there is no standard that should guide your relationship with me, or mine with you. That, I think, is a recipe for failure. Who was it that said that “Freedom for the Pike means terror for the Minnows”? John Locke, I think it was, made the same case that was made in the time of Samuel when the Jews wanted a King – that government is about giving up some freedoms and privileges for the chance to harvest those freedoms and privileges. I think on the whole, and within limits, that makes more sense.

    Re: Natural Moral Sensibilities

    Thanks for the Rav Kook quote – he was a gem of an individual. Too bad there are so few like him for us to learn from these days. No, I’m not proposing you step aside and be silent, PZ – I’m saying that matters, such as your claim Israel behaves like the SA Apartheid state and your claim about human/civil rights have a counterpoint that you are not weighing.

    A person who has done this would not refer to Israel with loaded words like those, and would recognize that the difficult moral situation we find ourselves in is not amenable to the kind of parlor room banter most of those who confront our situation deal with, as if our conflict were a hobby of theirs rather than a real conflict of values where the solutions are not certainties but are rather the best of poor choices. The Palestinians don’t come out better in their choices, and we find it suspicious why few in the crowd giving tokechcka to Israel seems to notice. I find it amazing that people who fight capital punishment in America feel it’s legitimate to murder a settler for living on “Palestinian Land”. Capital punishment for where you live, without trial. The “natural moral sensibilities” of these people are more selective than Rav Kook would have preferred, I think you’d agree. The reason for why they are is a legitimate cause for discussion.

    Re: “Insane Zionists”

    You said you espouse a solution instead of Zionism you called “Diaspora Nationalism”. Israel is not the Diaspora, though we sometimes act like it is. Perhaps you should explain yourself better then – if Diaspora Nationalism calls for abandoning Israel to its own, such that eventually with lack of support from Jews around the world it falls anyway, then what is the practical difference between what you say you said, and what you said?

  54. Post-Zionist says:

    1. Re: “You feel ‘kol yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh’ does not bind you and should not bind Jews.”

    I did not say that. What I said was Jews’ obligation towards one another is not the primary value upon which I build my Jewish identity.
    Again, here I will cite Rav Kook:
    “There is one who sings the song of his own life, and in himself he finds everything, his full spiritual satisfaction.
    “There is another who sings the song of his people. He leaves the circle of his own individual self, because he finds it without sufficient breadth, without an idealistic basis. He aspires toward the heights, and he attaches himself with a gentle love to the whole community of Israel. Together with her he sings her songs. He feels grieved in her afflictions and delights in her hopes. He contemplates noble and pure thoughts about her past and future, and probes with love and wisdom her inner spiritual essence.
    “There is another who reaches towards more distant realms, and he goes beyond the boundary of Israel to sing the song of man. His spirit extends to the wider vistas of the majesty of man generally, and his noble essence. He aspires towards man’s general goal and looks forward toward his higher perfection. From this source of life he draws the subjects of his meditation and study, his aspirations and his visions.
    “Then there is one who rises toward wider horizons, until he links himself with all existence, with all God’s creatures, with all worlds, and he sings his song with all of them. It is of one such as this that tradition has said that whoever sings a portion of song each day is assured of having a share in the world to come.
    “And then there is one who rises with all these songs in one ensemble, and they all join their voices. Together they sing their songs with beauty, each one lends vitality and life to the other. They are sounds of joy and gladness, sounds of jubilation and celebration, sounds of ecstasy and holiness.
    “The song of the self, the song of the people, the song of man, the song of the world, merge in him at all times, in every hour.
    “And this full comprehensiveness rises to become the song of holiness, the song of God, the song of Israel, in its full strength and beauty, in its full authenticity and greatness. The name “Israel” stands for shir el, the song of God. It is a simple song, a twofold song, a threefold song and a fourfold song. It is the Song of Songs of Solomon, shlomo, which means peace or wholeness. It is the song of the King in whom is wholeness.”
    You’re singing the song of the people. I’m doing my best to sing all four. My emanation of the song of the people may sound muffled in your book, but that’s because you’re not listening to hear it.

    2. Re: “I’m waiting to find out what [Diaspora Nationalism] means.

    Diaspora nationalism posits that one need not be dependent on physical nationhood in the form of a state to feel themselves part of a nation of people (nor, necessarily, to insure their physical security). A nation can, as Jews have exhibited throughout the last 20 centuries, transcend both borders and statehood.
    The Zionist project was embarked upon under the premise that giving the Jews a physical national homeland would lead to a transformation in Jewish identity and spirit that would ultimately normalize the perception of Jews in the eyes of the non-Jewish world, thus earning us our equality.
    At its very essence, it is a position which blames the victim and says that Jews (in their abnormalcy) are responsible for anti-Semitism. It absolves anti-Semites of their responsibility to change, by acknowledging that they could not properly relate to us due to our dispersed status (or our “wretched” and “defective” nature in diaspora, as some Zionist thinkers would have it), putting the onus on we Jews to change, rather than demanding that our oppressors change, by granting us our natural born rights and full equality in the lands of our births.
    Conversely diaspora nationalism suggests that every individual is entitled to human and civil rights, and that every self-defining community of affinity (whether ethnic, cultural, religious, political, etc.) is entitled to self-determination (so long as it does not come at the cost of another’s). This position does not hold the persecuted responsible for their own persecution, but rather states that it never be considered “forgivable” that one group should persecute another, no matter how “wretched” or “defective” they may be.
    These two ideologies were in direct competition with each other up until the Holocaust, when the leading progenitors of diaspora nationalism fell at Nazi hands. However, the spirit of their work continued in immigrant communities, like those in the United States, which organized politically to fight for Jewish rights, ultimately attaining national political impact.
    Zionism won out of desperation. The Shoah saw to that. Clearly, there were few viable alternatives for those fleeing Europe. But that doesn’t mean Zionism was ever the best long-term strategy for attaining Jewish equality (which, I believe, involves a larger global strategy for combatting hatred and the political ideologies which feed into it and off of it). Today we can see quite clearly that Zionism has failed to resolve the primary issues it set out to address, and has contributed a whole new set of problems of its own.
    Does that mean the state of Israel should be dissolved and all the Jews should pack up and go? Does that mean I “want the terrorists to win.” Certainly not. But I believe it means we need to reevaluate what how the Jewish community operates as a global player, and examine whether the policies of both the State of Israel and of our own communities are indeed best serving not only our collective interest, but the individual’s interests, humanity’s interests, and the planet’s interests. And we most do so while maintaining both cynicism and idealism.
    If your argument is that, given the present circumstances, the community’s current positions are the best that we can come up with, I fear that’s not saying much, particularly in light of all our self-aggrandizement over our people’s intellectual achievement.

    3. Re: “What binds you to other Americans, if all your view of community is about is consuming what you want to consume, but producing nothing in return other than your contribution to the consumer culture?”

    You seem to be mistaking “what is” for “what I envision.” So let’s just go to data, shall we?
    Reboot: “Grande Soy Vanilla Latte with Cinnamon, No Foam” (http://www.2164.net/PDF-newsletters/Latte_Report.pdf)
    “For American Jews in Generation Y, being Jewish is not their sole identity. This generation has unlimited access to American society, therefore Generation Y Jews behave much like all other Generation Y Americans, regardless of religion. Today’s young Jews have multiple identities shaped by many factors, including intermarriage in their families, diverse social networks, and dynamic boundaries around geography and other identity characteristics such as gender and sexual orientation. Being Jewish is part of a larger identity mosaic for today’s Jews.
    “We know from previous research that earlier generations of Jews felt a need to maintain tight connections as they experienced anti-Semitism, workplace discrimination and other challenges. But unlike Jews in the pre- and post-World War II era, this generation is fully integrated and does not need close communal cohesion in order to survive in a hostile society. Generation Y Jews no longer personally experience anti-Semitism or exclusion from the opportunities society has to offer; therefore, they are similar to their non-Jewish peers in that they worry about getting good grades, finding jobs and socializing with friends more than they worry about their religious identities.
    […]
    “Participants in this study struggle to define a meaningful concept of ‘community’ in general and a Jewish community in particular. They find it difficult to talk about what it means to belong to a community, and when asked, they instead refer to the neighborhoods where they grew up, the friendship circles they have at school, or the towns where they work.
    If connected to any Jewish community, young Jews in the study see themselves as tied to a global Jewish community, where they feel broadly connected to an abstract feeling of a people, more than a localized community or institution. For most, being Jewish starts with “family” and radiates outward to include a people who share a “culture,” a history of “oppression,” “language,” and “humor.”
    […]
    “The few who have had adult experiences with Jewish institutions are often left with negative impressions. Respondents from interfaith households, in particular, feel judged for ‘not being Jewish enough,’ and feelings of intimidation create a barrier to participation. But even those who grew up in households with two Jewish parents feel disconnected from institutional Jewish life and harbor a range of feelings encompassed by the thought that Jewish organizations are ‘not for me.’ They are not turned off by the non-profits’ missions, rather by the type of people they associate with belonging to those Jewish institutions who are either ‘not like me,’ or who seem singularly focused on fund raising goals.”

    4. Re: (I’m referring here to your comment about consuming Jewish culture for its own sake, not for a reason)

    Everyone has their own reasons for identifying Jewishly. We need to focus not on finding a one-size-fits-all reason for being Jewish or a bottom line upon which we all concur, but rather on creating as many opportunities as possible for Jews to identify Jewishly in their own way. We need to cater to “the long tail” as it were, by providing inroads into Jewish life for as many different personality types as there are that exist. birthright israel, for example, has been successful in this approach by providing different types of programs for different types of people. Israel Outdoors, Hillel, Jewlicious/Heeb, Aleph (the Renewal movement), NCSY and the Union of Progressive Zionists, each provide unique birthright trips that appeal to different personality types.
    I find your invocation of “consumerism” nothing more than a slander meant to tarnish my perspective dehumanizingly cold and corporate. Yet what is the Jewish community if not a transnational corporation peddling Jewish idea-products?

    5: Re: “producing nothing in return”

    Countless independent Jewish initiatives around the globe would beg to differ.

    6: Re: How do you pick a spouse and raise babies?

    How utterly chauvinistic. Statements like that are why Jews are so often perceived of as racist. Are you truly so provincial that you could not imagine having a meaningful, moral life without Judaism? There are billions of people on Earth who are NOT robbing and raping and killing each other and who are raising healthy families in peace. The Jews make up the tiniest sliver of that number (and yet, even so, we still do our own fair share of robbing and raping and killing). Even with all the badness we see on the 10 o’clock news, the world is NOT simply an endlessly spinning morass of moral perfidy. It is mostly people getting by and being neighborly. Were it otherwise, Jewish identity would certainly not be the only antidote, or even necessarily the best antidote, to alleviate individuals’, community’s, humanity’s or the world’s ills.
    You’re a Torah m’Sinai guy aren’t you?

    7: Re: Is there nothing that is outside of an anarchist that has value? I ask this not to put you in a corner, but to show how your view is the opposite of a communitarian view, and Judaism is a communitarian view.

    I hate to say it, I really really do… But what you’re proposing does not sound like communitariainism. It sounds more like national socialism.

    8: “It’s no great honor to say that the anarchy you advise as communal policy isn’t worse than the rest.”

    I advised not imposing a communal agenda, but rather allowing communal agendas to arise organically out of communal need and interest at the grass roots level.
    While that is technically an “anarchy,” when you say it, you make it sound as though it were a dirty word — just as the House on Unamerican Activities made communism a dirty word or as convservatives today make liberal a dirty word. Such smears began in the late 1800’s to combat the growing power of the anarchist movement which, at the time, was a growing thorn in the side of politicians and big business. The anarchists were organizing labor unions and physically fending off police attacks on striking workers. How utterly selfish and nihilistic of them!

    9: “There’s never been an anarchical society that was built by anarchists (you could argue there were some destroyed by them). So, how “practical” is anarchism as an alternative, such that you pass judgment thus on Zionism?

    To look at anarchism’s success through the paradigm of “nation building” bespeaks only one’s ignorance of what anarchist movements have historically sought to obtain and where they have succeeded in doing so.
    I did not say that Zionism was impractical in so far as it applies to its success in building a nation. Clearly, Zionism has succeeded in building a nation. Rather, I said that Zionism is impractical in so far as it will not resolve the underlying issues which impelled us to pursue sovereign statehood to begin with.

    10: Re: “To use the metaphor the Talmud uses about passengers in a boat”

    I prefer the story about the man who is drowning and prays to God to rescue him. One boat comes and offers him help, but he says, no thanks, I’m waiting for God to rescue me. Another boat comes, and it’s the same again — I’m waiting for God to rescue me. A third boat comes, but still he insists, I’m waiting for God to rescue me. Eventually he drowns. When he gets to heaven, he asks God, why didn’t you rescue me. God says, idiot, I sent you three boats.
    I wonder, if I have — not a single lifesaver, but perhaps thirteen million — and I offer everyone their own and they refuse to take it and eventually drown, am I to be faulted for surviving?
    With that in mind, I ask you, are the anarchist’s holes in the boat even remotely significant when those piloting the ship for the last 100 years have driven it straight into a glacier?

    11: Re: “I didn’t sense in your words the care for Israel in all that that you intended.”

    The land? Yes. The people? Yes. The state? Couldn’t care less.
    And just ask the folks from Gush Katif, the Bedouin in the Negev, the Survivors living in poverty, or anyone else for that matter: The state couldn’t care any less about you either.
    Does that mean Jews aren’t entitled to live in their ancestral homeland or to have self-determination as an affinity group? Of course not. But that’s not the way you’ll interpret my remarks.

    12: Re: “we’re here hoping we can make it better before those who advocate for our disappearance manage to succeed”

    All I can say is I hope you have lots of protektzia. You’re fighting an uphill battle against an entrenched bureaucracy averse to change.

    13: Re: People like me “have given our enemies a reason to wait it out for us to vanish rather than sign and self-enforce an agreement […] This is just tendentious yelling and screaming, but with the purpose of undermining Israel and those who support her.”

    Ok, so now I’m a collaborator and a traitor.

    14. Re: It’s not a discussion of the issues, because there, when we turn down the volume and discuss matters on their merits, the opponents of Israel lose their advantage. Or as sometimes happens, they just refuse to talk.

    Uh, you just called me a traitor. Why would I believe that anything fruitful could come of conversing with you? You have shifted the discourse away from questioning the merits of building Jewish identity on the foundation of Zionism, towards me having to defend myself from allegations of abetting the enemies of Israel. You have twisted my perspective as a concerned and involved Jew as to what is best in the interests of the Jewish community, into a conscious effort on my part, as a Benedict Arnold, to provide ammunition to those who would destroy us.
    It is regular tactic employed be Zionist ideologues that is intended to marginalize their opponents and thus stifle their views.

    15: Re: “you brought up socialism in one of your comments”

    No, I did not.

    16: Re: “In Judaism, people are to take this obligation of building and managing their communities for themselves…”

    Is that what all the haredim are doing, deferring to their rebbes? Is that what we’re doing, entrusting the likes of Lauder and Hoenlein and the government of Israel to speak on our behalves? I don’t need Zionism to have a kehillah tax system. It’s called the federation system. And yet I don’t even need a large bureaucracy like the federation system to dole out money either to nursing homes and day schools either. Microgiving websites and specialized Jewish NGOs could replace the entire federation infrastructure.

    17: Re: “You don’t complain that [Yossi Beilin’s] gained a tailwind with funding from the EU, who aren’t even part of our community and who have more to gain than lose if Israel ‘disappears’, so why do so when the right wing in Israel has gained a tailwind with funding and efforts from these people you mentioned, who are Jewish, who have demonstrated their concern for the Jewish people?”

    Uh, perhaps because the Geneva Initiative doesn’t make a difference to anybody and the Conference of Presidents does?

    18: Re: “Through their participation, and their concern, these Jews are building a sense of community between us, by attempting to influence it. I don’t find anything wrong with that, as long as they are ‘in the boat’, influenceable, and willing to allow all those who are ‘in the boat’ ”

    I hope you’re good at treading water.

    19: Re: “I do think, as an aside, that irrespective of what they do, there is no equivalent left and right wing amongst the Palestinians – no peace camp – nobody pressuring anybody from the Palestinian Diaspora to choose peace (it’s the opposite).”

    Right. All the Palestinians want to push us into the sea. Every single last one of them. And the ones who sat down with Yossi Beilin, they’re just trying to weaken Israel piece by piece until she finally collapses. Anything else I should know, other than that you’re a right-wing demagogue?

    20: Re: “What are you doing to change it with claims like you make? You’re making it worse, I feel.”

    Oh, I don’t know. What am I doing? Making friends with Palestinians and Muslims, who thank me for not spewing bullshit platitudes about how all Palestinians want all Jews dead and who respect me for fessing up to the fact that Israel’s shit doesn’t all smell like roses, and that Palestinians do have legitimate grievances? Showing them that not all Jews are callous and impervious to their suffering, and that we recognize their grief as well as our own? By their account of it, I help them understand Jews better and like Jews more. By your account, I’m giving them the rope to hang us with. They certainly treat me more respectfully than you and your ilk. But I guess that’s just because I’m a useful idiot, right? And spewing that noise is what you think passes for honest dialogue, right?

    21: Re: “Anybody who wants to can look at blogs like Richard Silversein’s or MondoWeiss or Orthodox Anarchist and get those points of view if they want – and they do. Even people who disagree with them on lots of things, like me. So, nobody’s being silenced here.”

    But Richard Silverstein and Philip Weiss will never be speaking at your local JCC. They will never be given a byline in a Jewish publication. They will never have their views aired in an official Jewish community forum. They will never hold a seat on the board of the American Jewish Committee or the UJA Federation. Even if their views weren’t idiotic and vitriolic and they did actually have well thought out positions (and ew, to put Orthodox Anarchist in league with either of them), you would never see an invitation extended to them to join a thoughtful conversation with, say, Martin Kramer or Daniel Pipes. And that’s because you guys are playing with a stacked deck. You’re not just a player, you own the house. And to act is if that weren’t the case is simply dishonest.

    22: Re: “If you recall, the halacha for tochechka is not to give it if you know you won’t be listened to.”

    Actually, that is NOT the halacha. The halacha is that if it won’t be heard, you are nonetheless obligated to give it. And so the compromise is that you should give it while always striving to give it in a way in which it will be heard.

    23: Re: “That never stops some from criticizing Israel – they like to hear their voices. It’s narcisstic. It makes them feel they are righteous, by making others wicked.”

    And the right-wingers will never fail to respond by calling their critics traitors who, if they were to be trusted, will deliver us unto our deaths, thus making them feel righteous, by making others wicked.

    24: Re: “What I can get from what you wrote is that there is no standard that should guide your relationship with me, or mine with you.”

    Wrong. The standard is that you do not rule over me and I do not rule over you.

    25: Re: “John Locke, I think it was, made the same case that was made in the time of Samuel when the Jews wanted a King – that government is about giving up some freedoms and privileges for the chance to harvest those freedoms and privileges.”

    John Locke was clearly no Torah scholar. When the Jews tell Samuel they want a king, Samuel warns them of the tyranny that will befall them. Still they insist, as do the Zionists, “Make us be a people like any other!” And God replies that the people have turned their backs on him.

    With all due respect, you must either be dishonest or illiterate and I find it infuriating to converse with you. You have once again misrepresented my words, and used your misrepresentation to erect a strawman, which, of course, you have had no trouble tearing down. In doing so, you have also, once again, lumped me in with anti-Semites and enemies of Israel.

    I see that I have been wasting my time, and at this point I would rather bow out than attempt further communicating with a person who holds his hands over his ears while shouting NO NO NO NO NO.

  55. Shai says:

    Sorry you took 25 paragraphs to notice you wasted your time. I found the discussion informative and interesting, and learned from it the perspective of a person, and people, whose views I rarely have a chance to hear (as opposed to your image of me closing my ears shouting NO, I just disagree with you – if you can imagine that) in direct response to my questioning. Some of your responses gave me food for thought, others seemed wrong, others seemed a bit selective of the facts chosen to convey the point – but that’s OK. I still learned from it.

    I don’t think you interpreted some of my statements about your stances (traitor, anarchism as a dirt word, etc.) correctly, but I won’t burden you trying to convince you of what you wish not to be convinced, nor would there be much point rebutting you where I think you’re wrong. It seems that we’re going to have to agree to disagree, and I think that’s fine. Your view of me seems precious to you, and I don’t wish to disabuse you of it.

    I will say this, I think that the Generation Y’ers you refer to in your “latte” reference don’t have a primary identity as Jews because as a community we haven’t invested in real content that warrants a primary identity as Jews. I don’t think there are many communities at all in western society who have an identity solid enough to warrant that kind of connection.

    You describe a symptom of today’s socieities, not just Jewish ones, where we have many identities. We are not known, on the whole, by any community as complete human beings but only as a collective series of identities, pieces of it known to this group, pieces of it to other groups. This is the primary reason why they can’t defien community. They never experienced a place where they were known for who they are as complete persons, the way, say, people were known prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution.

    I think this is something that can be reversed within the Jewish community, and believe that as human beings , community is the best context for enriching our lives as human beings. That’s why I want to reclaim it, not accept the current situation you described as something to be catered to, as if in any way it were ideal. People gettng together to enjoy the same music may in some way make people a community, but it’s a very shallow form of it. There are also communities, say, like gamblers, who gather together in the belief that one will succeed while all others fail and call that “OK”, and that’s an example of a community that’s a “bad” community. I’m thinking of a “good” community, one that unites around values they share that inspire their actions. Those values and those actions create the culture, and the Matisyahu and the rest is a manifestation of the substance of that culture – not the substance itself.

    The world you live in, PZ, and the one you suggest for the rest of us, to me seems bleaker than you sense – but you pursue yours, I’ll pursue mine. “A man is entitled to go to hell anyway he wants” is a quote I heard many years ago. The only argument between you and me is which way is up.

  56. PZ is wrong about Zionism says:

    PZ said that, “The Zionist project was embarked upon under the premise that giving the Jews a physical national homeland would lead to a transformation in Jewish identity and spirit that would ultimately normalize the perception of Jews in the eyes of the non-Jewish world, thus earning us our equality.”

    No actually, the idea of Zionism was to give Jews sovereignty, so they would be able to ensure their own safety.

    “Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel…”

    Therefore, Zionism has been and continues to be a success. Who cares whether Jews are normalized in the eyes of the non-Jewish world that didn’t ensure their safety before? Jews are living and surviving, and are not being slaughtered en mass like in the Holocaust. Less Jews have died in all of Israel’s wars than in one day in concentration camps.

    PZ, your premise about the roots of Zionism is flawed, which makes your entire argument about how Zionism hasn’t succeeded faulty.

  57. Post-Zionist says:

    While Zionism expresses the historical link binding the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, modern Zionism might not have arisen as an active national movement in the 19th century without contemporary antisemitism preceded by of centuries of persecution.

    Over the centuries, Jews were expelled from almost every European country – Germany and France, Portugal and Spain, England and Wales – a cumulative experience which had a profound impact, especially in the 19th century when Jews had abandoned hope of fundamental change in their lives. Out of this milieu came Jewish leaders who turned to Zionism as a result of the virulent antisemitism in the societies surrounding them. Thus Moses Hess, shaken by the blood libel of Damascus (1844), became the father of Zionist socialism; Leon Pinsker, shocked by the pogroms (1881-1882) which followed the assassination of Czar Alexander II, assumed leadership in the Hibbat Zion movement; and Theodor Herzl, who as a journalist in Paris experienced the venomous antisemitic campaign of the Dreyfus case (1896), organized Zionism into a political movement.

    The Zionist movement aimed to solve the “Jewish problem,” the problem of a perennial minority, a people subjected to repeated pogroms and persecution, a homeless community whose alienness was underscored by discrimination wherever Jews settled. Zionism aspired to deal with this situation by effecting a return to the historical homeland of the Jews – the Land of Israel.

    […]

    Political Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, emerged in the 19th century within the context of the liberal nationalism then sweeping through Europe.

    Zionism synthesized the two goals of liberal nationalism, liberation and unity, by aiming to free the Jews from hostile and oppressive alien rule and to reestablish Jewish unity by gathering Jewish exiles from the four corners of the world to the Jewish homeland.

    The rise of Zionism as a political movement was also a response to the failure of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, to solve the “Jewish problem.” According to Zionist doctrine, the reason for this failure was that personal emancipation and equality were impossible without national emancipation and equality, since national problems require national solutions. The Zionist national solution was the establishment of a Jewish national state with a Jewish majority in the historical homeland, thus realizing the Jewish People’s right to self-determination. Zionism did not consider the “normalization” of the Jewish condition contrary to universal aims and values. It advocated the right of every people on earth to its own home, and argued that only a sovereign people could become an equal member of the family of nations.

    http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2001/8/Zionism%20-%20an%20Introduction

  58. Shai says:

    Fair enough, PZ. At the end of the day, I think views like mine will be the ones left standing and we’ll write the history of views like yours. I don’t think your views are sustainable from generation to generation as Jewishness. I don’t think you even intend them to be.

  59. rokhl says:

    Um, another Diaspora Nationalist here. Post-Zionist, just curious, did you submit a proposal?

  60. […] You can read Ariel’s proposal, "Translating Judaism for the Post-Digital Age: Creative Zionism and a Renewed Jewish People," he…. […]

  61. Shai says:

    Congratulations, Ariel.

    Maya, we’ve seen Saul Singer’s idea in the Jerusalem Post, and Ariel’s idea here. Do you have a way to get S. Boteach’s, A. Diamant’s and Y. Kirtzer’s so that we can all get a look at them?

  62. Shai says:

    http://blogs.jta.org/telegraph/2007/11/12/enabling-the-next-big-jewish-idea/

    At the GA, here Orthodox Anarchist discusses the contest, saying what he thought it and other philanthropical ventures should do. There were some interesting comments, too.

    Maya, it’d be interesting to hear what you and others feel about OA’s observations, and whether others feel that the ideas proposed by the finalists tie in with his and/or their own personal criteria (whether they think they’d benefit or that the ideas have the power to achieve a communal benefit).

    Also, I’d like to hear from others which of the finalists’ proposals they think succeeds best at achieving the contest objective of changing the way Jews feel about themselves as Jews and their communities as Jewish communities.

  63. thenewjew says:

    Hi Shai,

    You’re right in noting that there were some great ideas coming out of the UJC’s General Assembly this year, from Daniel Sieradski (aka Orthodox Anarchist) and Esther Kustanowitz, in particular. Your question is a good one and I’ll let you know shortly.

    Both Daniel and Esther have blogs where they talk about some of these ideas, so I encourage you to check them out as well. Here are the links:

    http://orthodoxanarchist.com/ (catch it now because DS has long been threatening to part with the world of blogging– he is also the digitial media specialist for the JTA, but we rarely hear of him by name)

    http://estherkustanowitz.typepad.com/

    Maya

  64. Tsvi Bisk says:

    Dear Ariel,

    I love you — Bravo –I hope you are the winner– your idea deserves it and moreover you have the energy to really do it. Ideas are a dime a dozen — energy is rare.

    Tsvi Bisk

  65. Mike says:

    It seems that the contest organizers went for the big names. Everyone except Yehuda Kurtzer has made a name for themselves already. It makes me wonder whether the ideas were as important as the personalities. I’ll be curious to read about what the ideas are.

  66. […] to Ariel Beery, our own Bronfman finalist, for making the top five list in Charles Bronfman’s big idea contest for Jewish communal […]

  67. Ian Zwerling says:

    This idea is an example of giving them what they want to win the contest. It is all things to all people. It is really not saying anything while sounding important. It is reinventing the internet and then taking credit for others ideas as ones own. It is an example of pure opportunism and overachievement, kind of a way of paying off owns student loans.

  68. Post-Zionist says:

    Hey Shai– Did you see Arnold Eisen’s comments in the St. Petersburg Times?

    What are the key challenges facing the American Jewish community?

    First is building strong communities, attracting Jews to join them and make them a significant part of their lives.

    This at a time when every door is open to Jews and, for the first time in history, they can select any option for identity and commitment they choose.

    The question is why should they choose to connect with other Jews in significant ways. Building strong communities and attracting Jews to them is thus a challenge we must meet in order to carry Judaism forward.

    The second challenge is to present Judaism in a variety of revitalized, compelling ways. No one size fits all. No one formulation of Judaism can attract diverse ages and other differences within the Jewish population. We have to develop a variety of ways to teach and practice Jewish commitment and bring these to the attention and excitement of American Jews.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2008/01/27/Neighborhoodtimes/The_future_of_Judaism.shtml

  69. […] a tool? or a fundamental shift in how people connect and communicate and create networks. Read Ariel Beery’s ideas here and let me know what you think. Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where […]

  70. thenewjew says:

    Ian,

    How cynical that not liking someone’s ideas gets boiled down, as you allege, to the author’s needing to pay off student loans.

    Ariel Beery is doing great things for the world of young Jewish entrepreneurship. Of course he is building off of the ideas of others in some way. Rarely are ideas born and developed in a vacuum– we learn from those who come before us and create from what they have taught.

    If you look at the other proposals– liked in the comment above– the same can be said of every one of the finalists.

    Maya

  71. thenewjew says:

    Dear Mike,

    How true. I do think that having proven themselves in the Jewish world and already having demonstrated a deep commitment was one of the things they were looking for.

    I mention in my post here that every one of the finalists is known for his or her writing, considered a mover or shaker (having founded at least one organization– admittedly I don’t have information on Saul Singer), and is media savvy.

    Like you, I can’t wait to hear about the other proposals in depth.

    Thanks for your comment,

    Maya

  72. thenewjew says:

    Post-Zionist,

    Good link, thank you for sharing.

    Maya

  73. Shai says:

    Thanks for the link, PZ – I agree with him that “community” is something important (I state it as well in terms of it being a receptical for our personal growth, not only implying that it has in-and-of-itself value), and I think that in an era of choice the choice of Jewish community (or any community in the sense I mean it – all-encompassing communities are a rare thing these days) has to be more compelling than it was in the past. I am glad to see that other people are thinking about that, too, and I hope that some of the submissions we’ve not seen yet deal with it.

  74. Ian Zwerling says:

    This is my letter to Sarna after receiving his form rejection letter.
    I just wanted to inform you that I received your fine form letter emphasizing the difficulty you had in picking five famous people as finalists in the Bronfman (Seagram’s prize) contest. I feel for you knowing it must have been as difficult as Bush picking dinner guests to the White House. I should of trusted my instincts, (eliminating the possibility of being a Brandeis-style assimilated yet worried Jew) and realized that the Bronfmans have made their fortune on inflicting pain as a way of selling more hard liquor. It is a shame this has turned out to be a frivilous, corrupt contest so much like the sub-prime market of today. I guess Jews must like to suffer, having Greenspan as the latest assimilated Jew creating anti-semitism and pain to so many through his Ayn Rand assimilated Jew beliefs. Too bad he didnt submit a proposal. I hope to one day have enough money to send my children to any other university other than Brandeis. Oh, this isnt a form letter. Have a shot of whiskey on me.
    Sincerely
    Ian
    being a fire-water carrier for Bronfman, I suggest your next contest including the American Indian community, some of your best customers.

  75. Ian Zwerling says:

    Maya, his proposal is fluff and air.

  76. thenewjew says:

    Ian,

    Would you be interested in sharing your proposal?

    I’d be interested in reading it. We have another one coming up soon, so there is space for yours early next week if it’s ready, although after that is fine too.

    Just drop me an e-mail at mayan80 [at] yahoo.com and I’ll let you know how we can proceed.

    Look forward to hearing from you,

    Maya

  77. […] Institute for Creative Zionism, Ariel Berry and Aharon Horowitz’s effort to incubate the brainchildren of 20-something Jewish […]

  78. Texas Yid says:

    Ian is correct.

    Brandeis should publish ALL the submissions so the people can judge!
    I do not trust sarna and company to be fair or honest!

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