Scanning the Jewish news has become increasingly arduous and seems as though the liberal Jewish media is questioning the most basic tenets of the Jewish community here and in Israel. The most basic assumptions and principles are up for grabs or as we used to say “hefker”. Israel’s right to self-defense is no longer a given within some quarters of the Jewish community; in fact it’s right to exist at all, is no longer axiomatic within the far left Jewish community. Where once upon a time all the denominations defined themselves fundamentally by basic Jewish values, today far left Judaism seems to be reinventing and redefining Judaism as a religion of social justice while ignoring core Jewish values.
Since 1948 Israel has been the centerpiece and pride of the Jewish community. There were numerous times over the past 62 years that policies and positions of the Israeli government caused discomfort to the American Jewish community. However the collective wisdom of the Jewish community grew out of something greater than the narrow interests of the community. They were able to understand the arch of Jewish history beginning with Abraham and continuing to and beyond David Ben Gurion. They had vision. Many of our American Jewish leaders weren’t necessarily religious in the narrower definition of the term. Many weren’t familiar with Jewish ritual nor did they attach much significance to it. What they did attach importance to was something much more profound than personal religious practice and ritual – the recognition that there was something much greater than the narrow interests of the individual’s political sensitivities: the corpus of the Jewish people, Am Yisrael.
The American Jewish community is floundering and may be foundering as well. As the far left Jewish movement gets stronger and as they move further away from the normative Jewish value system they have entered the unchartered territory of hefkerut, chaos. In an attempt at self-discovery they have formulated a new Judaism, ordaining rabbis who know not the language and ethos of the Jew, but with the hope, nevertheless, that their (futile) attempt at a contemporary restyling and redefinition of what constitutes a Jews will serve as their legitimacy, a lifebuoy to a sinking a community rife with assimilation and empty of all particular Jewish values save for the universal message of social justice. But that isn’t enough. In their attempt to redefine Judaism they have seen fit to tear down the one institution that refuses to play into their fantasy by delegitimizing Israel.
Israel’s right to self-defense has been undermined by the far left liberal Jewish community that has placed social justice above everything else as its central creed, their “ani maamin “ of Judaism. Even the Rambam was censured by other great contemporary rabbis, when he tried to impose his thirteen principles of faith, claiming that there were no thought police in Judaism - that there was no place for dogma within the theological underpinnings of Judaism. And yet, comes the audacity of the far left liberal community with the hubris of trying to set, not a new agenda, but a redefinition of what constitutes Jewish belief.
The new belief system espoused by the far left movement today is social justice. Apart from the prophets the only other source they have for this is “tzedek tzedek tirdof” and of course, their bastardization of tikkun olam. This community never felt comfortable in any format of particularism of which Judaism spoke. Universalism was the preferred approach because that was closest to Christian theology demanding the least from its constituents. What the far left Jew never understood was while there was concern for the broader community, our work first began at home. Notice that the bible begins with Adam and Eve, branching out to the family, then the extended family, the tribe, the nation, and only later the world. Our first responsibility is to our families, extended families, our tribe, and our people i.e. our country, Israel.
This matrix isn’t comfortable for most far left Jews today because people such as Jay Michaelson articulated a few weeks ago in the Forward, his sensitivities that were aggravated by the need to defend Israel to his liberal circle of friends. He and others of his ilk don’t feel comfortable in this role. And of course rabbis with little Jewish content other than the buzz words “tikkun olam” and have little else to say found a new cause: the suffering Palestinians in Gaza. So they found a new cause because the old ones are simply too particular, too parochial, lacking a broader appeal. They have become so corrupt that their flagship J Street no longer defines itself as pro-Israel, but pro peace.
Their pro-peace agenda took on special prominence based upon the latest, most current research: Jews under the age of 30 wouldn’t be too distressed if Israel no longer existed. Well that’s that. Let the polls decide the future. After all we are a democracy and the UN is run on democratic principles too. Conventional wisdom of the General Assembly is that since Israel was an unfortunate mistake she ought to be deleted. Sounds ridiculous? I would have thought so once upon a time. Now I’m fearful that the azimuth of the far left Jewish community has veered so far off course that it wouldn’t surprise me if their rabbis who are fasting for Gaza would be supportive of a one state solution knowing that within one generation the State of Israel would be eliminated – democratically. Tikkun Olam.