Saturday, March 06, 2021

New York Jews, Liberalism, and Israel

I read an article today that dates from a decade ago whether the love affair between Jews and Israel is over. As I recall articles from Tikkun in the 1980s saying just that, I can't find it surprising. I don't know when I first heard the idea - the accusation, really - that liberalism had become the new religion of the Jews, but I recall feeling sad as I contemplated it, realising that in my own Jewish friends, there was a good deal of truth in this. Was this in the 1990's?

As parents and grandparents have died and many have intermarried with Gentiles, this has certainly not become less true.  The number of secular Jews becoming Orthodox has been surprisingly large, but still a fringe phenomenon nationwide.

There is no necessary logical connection between questioning Israel's overall approach in the world while gradually slipping away from Jewish associations and Jewish practice.  It is logically very possible to say "Y'know, I need to get more involved with my synagogue and buckle down to at least some traditional practice" and also saying "I think Israel's politics are dangerous and make an already bad situation worse in the Middle-East."

However, I note that they co-occur a lot, don't they?


This just showed up today, from David Bernstein.  It is not a remarkable coincidence. I could write a similar article in a month, or four months, and quickly find something like this in a major Jewish publication that week. Consider also that as attendance wanes, a congregation here and there will have to close.  Some of the faithful will travel, but most will simply drop away.  It will become harder to keep families when they move as well.

And for those who follow this, it isn't that different from the mainline Protestant denominations, which are losing attendance at the rate of 1-2.5%/year. The Methodists and Lutherans started with large enough numbers that they can keep consolidating churches for a long time, hoping for a cultural change that puts them back up.  But the smaller groups, such as the UCC, Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Church - those don't have any margin to stay afloat.


DirtyJobsGuy said...

Reading accounts of upper and middle class Jews in Germany and Austria before WWI you see a lot of the same ideas (albeit with no Israel as a state). They were not in favor of Zionism and despite discrimination felt like they were a part of the well off societ.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well that's a chilling comparison, isn't it?

Christopher B said...

Also factor in the decline of the kibbutz collectives, and the capitalistic success of Israeli companies.