Breach in the Dam, By Ariel Beery (Jerusalem Post)
Sociologist Steven M. Cohen has observed, there has been a marked drop in the obligation young Jews feel to put their fellow Jews first: Only one-quarter of Jews aged 35 to 44 strongly believe they “have a special responsibility to take care of Jews in need around the world.”
This trend was taken to an extreme at the recent Wexner Foundation seminar for its graduate student cohort, a group hand-picked by the established Jewish community to cultivate its future leaders. The Wexner fellows ranked causes related to the Jewish community or Israel significantly lower than more general causes such as the American Jewish World Service’s efforts in Africa.
The good news is, then, that Jewish education works. A generation of young Jews around the world have internalized the message that “being Jewish” means fixing the world in its totality, without regard to race, religion or nationality.
The bad news for the Jewish state and people is that this generation of American Jews have taken from their education that acting Jewish means doing justice without regard to nationality or peoplehood.
While it feels good to support all peoples and all victims, the nature of the world in which we live in – where Hizbullah amassed thousands of rockets and attacked Israel; where Iran edges towards nuclear weapons; and where over a third of Israel’s Jews, and, surprisingly, 20 percent of New York Jews live under or close to the poverty line – makes an ethics of universalism simply irresponsible at the moment.
It is at times like these that we who care about our families need remember the inherent obligation of peoplehood: Justice means providing full support to those whom you live with, those who would die for you, and the people whom you came from, no matter what the world thinks.
THE NEW JEWS seem to have forgotten this obligation. Shaped by the Diaspora, educated into multiculturalism and a universalistic morality, these young Jews equate their Jewish identity with global social justice. Even at a time of war they organize a benefit concert for all the war’s victims, even if it means necessarily reducing the amount of aid provided to those who sacrificed for our welfare.
But what looks like a trickle today is really a breach in the dam of peoplehood – which will do no good for the Jews, or the cause of fixing of the entire world, when these Jews become the leaders and donors of the Jewish community as a whole.
It is time for the Jewish community to realize that the next generation will be what we teach it, and that the emphasis on universalistic social justice, while appealing, is no more than junk-food Jewish education: It feels good, the kids love it, and it won’t hurt on occasion – but without the particularism of peoplehood the Jewish community will soon find itself undernourished and unable to survive.
Ariel Beery is the editor and publisher of PresenTense Magazine(www.presentensemagazine.org) and co-editor of BlogsofZion.com.
The ‘New Jew’ is not only a phenomenon of this generation. For context, click here.
One of the Jerusalem Post Talkbacks on this story is worth noting:
Universalising Judaism will not achieve the conscious/unconscious agenda of New Jews which is to provide a cover to the particularness of their reality – that they are discrete, individual, indentifiable, embodied and most disturbingly, targetable Jews. Their attempt to emphasize the universal dimension of Judaism is nothing more than a pathetic, ineffective, seemingly sophisticated defence tactic – a ploy to avoid attack against all Jews at best, but themselves individually in particular. Sartre would define these Jews as “inauthentic,” as he brilliantly exposed their mindset and agenda in “Anti-Semite and Jew.” Unfortunately, Judaism is not about promoting a set of universal religious ideas (see, i.e. Catholicism), but about a specific, particularly defined nation fulfilling a divine mission, in their homeland, preferably, – to follow the Torah and say no to any other identity. Non-Jews don’t buy Jewish attempts at escapism either – see Nazism, WWII.