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The Continuity of Judaism

Wolfgang Hamburger
Winter 1996

In some Jewish circles, particularly those which are involved with Jewish organizations, the question about Jewish continuity is raised and discussed with concern. The perception prevails that Jewish life is exposed to diminishing vitality. Judaism as a religion has enjoyed the attention and devotion of, at best, half the Jewish population during the last two generations. Jewish secularism, Judaism’s replacement or substitute, through which non-religions people have expressed their Jewishness, seems to be losing its motivating force among some of its adherents. Zionism, trying to meet every kind of need of the State of Israel, must contend with declining urgency ever since accommodating arrangements in the Middle East have been initiated. Finally, the growing number of interfaith marriages, which are said now to constitute about half of all the marriages into which Jewish persons enter, leads to wondering about the contact which these families and their children will maintain with Judaism in years to come — not that Jewish couples and their offspring can nowadays be taken as guarantors of Judaism’s future.  

The future of Judaism has been the concern of Eugene B. Borowitz who is Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor of Education and Jewish Religious Thought at the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. His concerns about the present condition and the changes which he deems necessary for the sake of a viable future are presented in his book, Renewing the Covenant. A Theology for the Postmodern Jews. It was published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1991.  

Theological Views  

Dr. Borowitz’s theological view were discussed in ISSUES, Fall 1993. Those views adopt the biblical position that God chose Israel/the Jews, in contrast to which the opinion was offered by this writer that Israel/the Jews chose God. (For the sake of clarity, the term "Israel" refers to the people of the biblical age, the term "Jews" to their successors, beginning with the 5th century B.C.E.) The question of who chose whom is intimately a matter of personal belief and insight; it cannot be convincingly answered as if it were an equation.  

Whether God revealed Himself at Mt. Sinai and elected there the Israelites to be His special people, as the Book of Exodus relates, or whether the Israelites, with the help of their religious leaders, found God on their way through history and felt the need to cling to Him as their ideal can be decided only by each believing person in the light of his/her thinking and by the strength of his/her heart. When persons, interested in religion, talk about their Jewish beliefs and opinions, they can only listen to each other in order to widen their religious horizon and make firmer their convictions, but should they conscientiously attempt to influence each other, their conversation would turn into monologues, speeches without responses.  

Still, Prof. Borowitz authoritatively insists on "reaffirming the most extraordinary miracle of the Bible — God personally communicating the Ten Utterances" (p. 283). The author then proceeds to transform the miracle which happened once upon a time into a relationship with God which an individual can have at longer or shorter intervals, and this experience, no longer miraculous, is still sufficiently wondrous to keep the Covenant of Sinai as the magnetic field for Jewish existence. As thorough and erudite as the presentation of this theological view is, taking the reader from unfathomable miracle to possible experience and thereby reinvigorating the religious part of Jewish living, raises the questions whether not too much is expected in today’s world, characterized by skepticism. Is it really possible to transform a singular experience in antiquity into an ongoing one in our time when wonderment and contemplation are at best rare occurrences in life?  

Religious Judaism  

As this view can hardly be called a guide for those who are looking for a satisfying explication of religious Judaism, Prof. Borowitz, in search of a guarantee of Judaism’s future, wants to establish "a doctrine of commanded particularity" (p. 145). Apparently, Jewish survival is promised by the determination to be Jewishly particular. But to the mind of a liberal religionist, this is an extraordinary suggestion in which he/she cannot delight, for it contradicts the stance of Liberal/Reform Judaism. Objection must be raised to every word of the phrase, "doctrine of commanded particularity."  

Doctrine is a teaching of such importance that it is widely accepted and applied. It is the result of reasoning and can be defended by reasoning. There are various kinds of doctrines such as religious, governmental, economic. Yet it lies in the nature of Judaism that doctrines have not received such attention, because precepts have shaped Jewish life. Furthermore, the notion of doctrine, in the religious environment, connotes catechism which is not a component of Judaism. The word "commanded" in a presentation of what Jewish life in our time could or should be is not so much objectionable as it is astonishing. In the Western World, all religions must rely on persuading their faithful in order to have their allegiance. It is a fair statement that commandment in Judaism, as it does in Christianity, refers exclusively to the Ten Commandments. Even they are not scrupulously observed. Whatever Jews do as part of their religious observance, such as fasting on Yom Kippur or eating matzah during the week of Passover, they do so because of inclination, loyalty or conviction but hardly because they are so commanded. The idea that we are, or must again become, particular is also strange in that it purposes the reversal of the trend which has widely prevailed among many Jews for longer than merely the recent past. As a matter of fact, the pursuit of some sort of integration into American life began with the children of Jewish immigrants from Europe, if not with the immigrants themselves.  

Personal Humanity  

Our personal humanity is a fabric which consists of several component parts such as the inclination to muse and let the thoughts roam and to delight in the creativity of men and women long gone, the ability to see what is good and lofty and to enjoy what is available without the incentive of envy and greed, the disposition to sense awe and to act accordingly. Component parts of the fabric, however, can also be less admirable traits of human nature such as self-centeredness, materialism or Philistinism. Every human being sits at the loom of his/her life, weaving the fabric of his/her humanity, some more and others less successfully. Jews weave into that fabric their strands of Judaism, strands which indicate their personal relationship to Judaism or Judaism’s effect upon them. Thus, the patterns of the fabric vary extensively. Diligent work on the fabric turns it into a tapestry; pieces of tapestry are as divergent as humans are, for every piece of tapestry testifies to an individual.  

Unfortunately, many Jews know so little about Judaism that they cannot care about it. The fabric of their personal humanity contains barely a strand of Judaism. Perhaps they become emotionally upset when reports from, or about, the State of Israel are unfavorable or when anti-Jewish mischief touches their environment. Such sporadic sentiments are meaningless in the context of Judaism’s future, for they have neither substance nor permanence. Those, however, whose Judaism is an integral part of their lives wonder about its spiritual vitality and its existential relevance in the years ahead. They can only hope that what they cherish will still be cherishable in the next generation, for spiritual treasures which are bequeathed must be accepted and acquired; if they are disregarded, they cease to be spiritual treasurers.  

Theological Structure  

Prof. Borowitz verbalizes his concerns and proceeds to offer a theological structure in order to preserve Jewish life for the coming generations. For the sake of consolidating and stabilizing the Jewish community, he wishes to develop the already mentioned "doctrine of commanded particularity." The preceding remarks and observations attempt to give the reasons for doubting that such a doctrine can be accepted by today’s Jewish American community. The author’s intensity of thinking about, and purposing for, the community is not matched by the community’s fervor and devotion, at least not to any appreciable extent.  

Prof. Borowitz writes his theology for the Jewish community which he perceives as an entity. He does not recognize that this community, insofar as it is religious, has been divided for several generations, for he divides it into two parts, that of the Orthodox and that of the non-Orthodox; he addresses himself to the non-Orthodox. This is obviously an oversimplification, for the religious division of the community is more complex than this bifurcation would make the uninformed reader believe. As a matter of fact, not even Orthodoxy is homogeneous as its degree of observance as well as custom and ritual varies from congregation to congregation. There is also the question of modernity in that congregations and their rabbis can be more or less open to secular knowledge, recognizing it as Judaism’s wholesome and valid partner in cultivating the humanity of the members or denying its substantive and character-forming value.  

When this is an objective statement concerning Orthodoxy, how much more then is the fact of difference and divergence applicable to the very large group of the non-Orthodox. It ties together as similar Jews whose religiously conservative orientation can be distinguished from Orthodoxy only with difficulty and persons who still adhere to Classical Reform Judaism. This classification of all non-Orthodox Jews as one category does injustice to all who hold distinct beliefs and who have purposefully selected, from tradition, observances, and customs, that which best symbolizes their attachment to Judaism and expresses their piety. Generalizations are usually oversimplifications which are of little practical or theoretical value. The rule applies in this case as the generalization neither instructs nor inspires. A unified theory of Jewish life cannot be developed.  

Identity As Jews  

It should not be assumed that all whose identity as Jews is expressed by a religious affiliation, be it with a syna-gogue or a temple, are so conscientious as to invest Judaism with the gifts of their minds and hearts and to reinvigo-rate the old heritage in their own way. Religious affiliation does not necessarily bespeak pronounced religious convictions or beliefs. Every congregation lists members on its roster who rarely attend a service, and some may not do so at all. The non-participating members can rightfully claim that they identify themselves as Jews. That they do not avail themselves of the privileges of membership is their choice. The difference between such absent members and the unaffiliated, who would never deny that they are Jews, is financial support given or withheld.  

However, numerous non-religious Jewish organizations, cultural, educational, fraternal, national, vie for members and their financial assistance so that a non-believing and non-practicing Jew has various opportunities to manifest that he/she is still a Jew. He/she is a secular Jew who, while not interested in or concerned about Judaism, for one reason or another, perhaps out of "Jewish pride," wants to be Jewish. This desire is a modern phenomenon, unknown a few generations ago, which has given rise to the opinion that one need not be religious in order to be Jewish. Since the word "Judaism" has an ineradicably religious connotation, a new term had to be coined for the secular Jew. His attachment to secular Jewish substitutes for Judaism, such as Jewish nationalism, politics, social concern or even cuisine, is called "Jewishness."  


This definition of the word "Jewishness" is offered by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi in his book, Freud’s Moses (New Haven and London, 1991). He associates it with the ideas of the Enlightenment which were adopted by Jewish circles in Germany during the 18th century. Those circles, while hoping and striving for civil rights to be granted to Jews, initiated the movement for secular Jewish enlightenment. They were convinced that a precondition of attaining civil rights was to lead their fellow-Jews to European education. Thus, the primary task the Jewish enlighteners set for themselves was education in science, philosophy, and literature.  

It was a thorough-going deviation from the traditional educational system of the Jewish community. This zeal for modern education spread rapidly from Germany to, and throughout, the lands of the Habsburg Empire. This caused a social and cultural change, and a weakening of the ties to traditional Judaism. Introduced to European education without the understanding and help of their rabbis, Jews could no longer believe in the God in whom their parents and grandparents had believed. Still, they wanted to remain Jews, and thus secular Judaism, a Judaism without God, came into existence. They could be Jews without the synagogue in that they devoted themselves to the human needs of their communities. This devotion and involvement came to be called, according to Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Salo Wittmayer Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture, and Society and director, Center for Israel and Jewish Studies, at Columbia University, "Jewishness," the Judaism in which God is not present, or secular Judaism.  

Religious and Secular  

Prof. Borowitz makes extensive use of the word "Jewishness" when he refers to religious as well as to secular Judaism. He is obviously concerned more about the community than the congregation as it is statistically shown that there are more secular than religious Jews; the community counts every Jew, a congregation lists only its members.  

It seems that the author’s opinions and evaluations are influenced or determined by what he calls "a love for East European Jewish style." The thoughts of Prof. Borowitz have their origin in this romanticizing idealization of a world with living conditions which the masses of emigrants were glad and eager to leave behind. That style was shaped under the pressure of humiliating disability and oppressive uncertainty. The style was appropriate and fitting for a community that was largely cut off from its environment and had to be self-reliant in every regard of human existence. The individual could not exist without the community, unless he wanted to cease being a Jew and converted to the faith of the majority of the population. The community provided the individual with his physical, religious, emotional, and even economic space of living. And the community depended on the individual for his contribution to its cohesiveness and proper functioning.  

The immigrants came to the New World because life in the old one had become unbearable and hopeless, and they came here for the sake of a more secure living and its promise of opportunities. Only where they settled in large numbers were they able to recreate their old milieu and maintain their communal style. When the descendants of the immigrants found the opportunities about which they had heard and availed themselves of freedom of movement, communal milieu and life style became necessarily susceptible to adjustments to the new surroundings. This process was more pronounced wherever Jews constituted a small fraction of the population. The secular Jew who lived in the "dispersion" had to affiliate with a congregation, if he wanted to indicate that the was a Jew. Was his secular leaning so strong that he would not consider congregational membership, he could still make contributions to Jewish charities, support the efforts on behalf of the State of Israel or join a Jewish fraternal organization. That would have been the evidence of his Jewishness, of his belonging to the Jewish people.  

Different Concerns  

Religious Jews and secular Jews have different interests and concerns. Prof. Borowitz tries to unite these opposites and uses the term "Jewishness" as the common designation. But for a Reform Jew, who takes Reform Judaism seriously and thinks for faith’s sake, Renewing the Covenant does not make for instructive or inspiring reading. It is too embracing, inclusive, and accommodating to serve our segment of the religious community.  

Prof. Borowitz, attempting to unify religious and secular Jews, introduces the notion of "ethnic rootedness" as the denominator common to all Jews. On the surface, secular Jews may be able to appreciate the phrase as it seems to validate whatever their Jewishness may mean. Religious Jews, however, must consider it superfluous, if not meaningless, for it adds nothing to their awe of the incomprehensible God, to their prayers recited at home or with the congregation, or to the verification of their awe by honest and honorable living, by compassion and charity. But below the surface, "ethnic rootedness" as a Jewish notion is intolerable because it is disturbingly and painfully reminiscent of the terminology used by the Nazis to plan and justify the Holocaust.  

Still, the author may have harkened back to the 19th century and the awakening of nationalism. Political Zionism also was a child of that awakening. As Theodore Herzl, its ideological and organizational founder, was a non-believing Jew, even so could, from then on, other non-religious Jews make Zionism the badge of their Jewish identification and association. Wherever the origin of the notion of Jewish ethnicity and ethnic rootedness may be located, it is obvious that this conception of being Jewish has no relevant purpose in the thought and practice of Judaism. A believing and practicing Jew can well do without it.  

"Jewish Continuity"  

Renewing the Covenant has as its basic theme "Jewish continuity," or the future of Judaism and its adherents or people as a viable yet distinct and particularistic part of humanity. Organized religion in general, with the exception of fundamentalism, must contend with declining interest and membership. Thus, what Jewish congregations experience, and, of course, also national Jewish organizations, is not merely a Jewish phenomenon. However, the presently prevailing conditions do not presage the disappearance of Judaism and the end of persons’ identification as Jews. To the contrary, men and women of non-Jewish background have discovered, and are still discovering, Judaism with the effect that they become Jews by choice. Conversions to Judaism have been occasioned in the past at the time of marriage in order to avoid an interfaith marriage. In more recent years and at the present time, such conversions have occurred, and continue to occur, out of personal conviction and not merely for the sake of a religiously seamless marriage.  

Jews by choice, like all converts, are serious and devoted; they enrich the congregations they have chosen as their new religious homes. When persons adopt Judaism as their new faith, they identify with its spirit, with its ideas, precepts, practices, and the hallowing of life as these have evolved in the long course of history. Do Jews by choice also acquire a sense of "ethnic rootedness?" Can it be expected of them? But more important yet is the question whether Jews, by birth or by choice, constitute indeed an ethnic group and are rooted in their "ethnos?"  

Ethnic Identity  

"Ethnos" is a Greek word and means "people," like the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Judeans, etc. When a word is borrowed from the classics by modern scholarship and academia, it usually is subject to a change of meaning and requires a new definition. Thus, when sociologists use the word "ethnic" or speak of an ethnic group, they refer to a racial or national group of people who share the same language as well as a common and distinctive culture. The word "ethnic," thus understood, cannot be applied to Jews.  

At least since the destruction of the Judean state by the Romans 2,000 years ago, Jews ceased to be a people in the ordinary sense of the word. They had no country of their own but settled in, or were dispersed throughout, the provinces of the Roman Empire and outside its sphere of influence, in the Iran and Iraq of today. They did not share a common language in their numerous habitations. Hebrew became the language of scholars and of worship. The lesson read from the Torah at Sabbath and festival services was immediately translated into the people’s spoken language, for otherwise the scriptural lesson could not be understood. Today Hebrew is spoken by the citizens of the State of Israel and is mastered by Jewish and Christian scholars of the Bible and Hebrew literature, but Jews in general have not become more familiar with the language of their biblical past. Therefore they do not share the same language. Surely Zionists claim that the State of Israel belongs to all Jews; they speak of it as "our land" or "our homeland," but no survey is required to prove that many Jews do not think or feel that such a bond exists. It is obvious that Jews around the globe do not have one country that is theirs. Rather, in whatever country they live and where they have lived for generations, that country is their country.  

Distinctive Culture  

Finally, the term "ethnic" implies that every people has a distinctive culture. Sociology uses the term in the sense of the sum total of ways of living developed by a group of humans and transmitted from one generation to the next generation. In this sense, culture was hardly a product of Jewish creativity because Jews always lived as an insignificant minority among Near Eastern and European peoples. When their status was legally secure and when they could take part in the life of their environment, Jews were open and receptive to the intellectual and emotional life around them. Even when they were segregated in ghettos, the walls were not so high as to separate them completely from the world outside their quarters.  

Jewish concerns were focused on the application of Judaism to their personal and family life, and to the well-being of the community. The communities were self-sufficient and organizationally independent of each other; local customs made each of them distinct. It was only in Poland that a nation-wide Jewish organization was founded. Deliberations and decisions were of a practical nature; they related in the main to such matters as disputes in the communities, questions of taxation, social and religious regulations, prevention of threatening perils, assistance given to fellow-Jews in distress.  

Middle Ages  

There was a Jewish life style during the Middle Ages, a life style which, however, differed from country to country. It was not the same in Egypt, Turkey, Holland, and Poland. It is not possible to summarize those life styles under the heading of "Jewish culture." This opinion is corroborated by the fact that the Enlightenment of the 18th century presented the Jews in various countries with civil rights to varying degrees. With that, the life style of Jews changed more or less considerable, even within one country, as in Germany. With our own society having become ever more open during the last fifty years, it is nigh impossible to describe our Jewish life style at the present time. It is a highly individualistic way of expressing our Jewish identification or sentiment and can be intense or hardly perceivable, and anything in-between. Our Jewish life style with its numerous shadings and manifold nuances, more commonly than not, is an integral part of our American life style.  

The characteristics of an "ethnos," a possessed land, a common language, and a shared culture pertain to Israelis, they do not pertain to Jews. What bonds Jews is Judaism, any of its seriously taken branches. But when Jews feel that they can dispense with their religion they break that bond, for which secular Judaism is in truth no substitute. The notion of ethnic rootedness is merely an artificial crutch that was manufactured in Zionism’s workshop. It is of no use on the pilgrimage through life which according to a poetic prayer, should be a sacred pilgrimage. Neither Jews by birth who adhere to Judaism with greater or lesser intensity and devotion nor Jews by choice who have discovered Judaism and embraced it can have any genuine use for the strange notion of ethnic rootedness, so strange because Jews have not been an ethnos for two millennia.  

Furthermore, throughout the course of history, there have been conversions out of Judaism and conversions into Judaism. "Jewish peoplehood" can be taken only as the designation of a religious group. The introduction of the untenable notion of ethnic rootedness into "A Theology for the Postmodern Jew" must thus be recognized as an attempt to Zionize the world of Jewish belief, thought, and deed. That attempt may be inspired by Zionism’s declining importance in the Jewish community.  

Ethnic Rootedness  

The introduction of the notion of ethnic rootedness into Jewish religious thought is amazing also in another context, namely that of the Holocaust. Prof. Borowitz makes frequent, and sometimes extended, reference to the Holocaust which he characterizes as "this awesome evildoing." As the worst catastrophe recorded in Jewish history, the author sees it as a turning point in contemporary Jewish orientation in that he calls it "the hinge of the particular Jewish turn from enthusiastic modernity" (p. 28). Some clarifying observations and corrective comments are in order.  

This view of the Holocaust began to emerge about two decades after the end of Nazi despotism. The first years after 1945 were marked by the silence of shock and disbelief. Those who had lived through World War II in lands of safety found it impossible to react to the gruesome discoveries that the conquering armies made. Incredulity and embarrassment made the Holocaust a topic rarely discussed in public. Jewish survivors and even those who were able to leave the European continent just in time before the Nazis felt free to act upon their megalomaniacal designs could not or would not talk about the unspeakable.  

It is now easier to talk about the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust than it was fifty years ago, to recount nightmarish experiences or last words exchanged with relatives or friends, or the last time of being together. The Jews who lived in then Palestine and in 1948 became Israelites could not muster up too much sympathy for the unfortunate Jews in Europe but rather blamed them for not having left Europe for Palestine. In their judgment, the Holocaust proved them right in taking their being Jewish as a matter of nationality; it strengthened their national orientation. They thought of themselves as the heroic builders and defenders of their new nation, the first one in two thousand years, and of the European Jews as the victims of their own misguidedness. There was no place for the Holocaust in the thinking of the builders of Israeli nationhood.  

Nationalistic Element  

This condescending attitude of those who believed to have discovered Judaism’s nationalistic element became subject to change when at the beginning of an unprovoked and unexpected attack by her Arab neighbors Israel found herself in a very precarious situation. For a short time, there loomed the specter of defeat, the possibility of another holocaust. Within a few days, however, the Israeli army began to prevail and dispelled the fear of even the faint-hearted. Though Israel carried the day in the end, the initial shock with its fleeting thought of a possible holocaust brought to mind the Holocaust in Europe.  

It was then that Israeli ideologues appropriated it, because it dawned on them that the Holocaust could serve their purpose in that the State of Israel would be made the phoenix that arose out of the Jewish ashes in Europe. Thus, the Israelis had another opportunity to establish an emotional tie with the Jews the world over. Holocaust Remembrance Day has its designated place in the Israeli calendar; it precedes Israel Independence Day by about a week. Jewish calendars indicate these special days of Israeli society.  

It must therefore be said that the Holocaust as "the hinge of the particular Jewish turn from enthusiastic modernity" is not the original and genuine reaction to what became officially known in 1945. It rather mirrors the desire to make Israeli decisions and institutions the guide for American Jews. Any attempt of this kind bears the mark of artificiality. Though it may reassure the Israelis to know that their thoughts and arrangements are given attention by Jews beyond the borders of their country, it is an emotional alignment with a differently motivated and oriented society. Such an alignment does not grow naturally out of life’s experience, and therefore it is naturally of a tenuous quality.  

Influence of Holocaust  

Prof. Borowitz is of the opinion that, by and large, Jews have turned away from "enthusiastic modernity" under the impact of the Holocaust and under the influence of "our sorry experience with Christianity during the Holocaust and our ambivalent relations with it since" (p.233). This, of course, is his personal judgment to which the response is appropriate that everything lies in the eye of the beholder. One wonders how many Jews honestly share his amazingly negative view of our environment. Is that what his numerous lectures to, and appearances before, Christian groups have persuaded him to think? Or does he think so in order to provide his notion of the Jews’ ethnic rootedness with credibility? This suspicion presents itself when one keeps in mind the astonishing phrase, "the unique focus of our ethnic pride, the State of Israel" (p.50).  

It is a revealing statement, because it is meant to establish the untenable notion of ethnicity as the bond that unites all Jews, no matter how they explain their so-called Jewishness to themselves and to others. The focus of this proud ethnicity is the State of Israel, whether a Jew has any sense of attachment to, or interest in, the State of Israel or not. It is taken for granted that every Jew is a Zionist. It is the author’s personal opinion which is, naturally, shared by other Jews, but their number cannot be ascertained. Every idiosyncrasy has its followers. The enthusiasm for the State of Israel in this "Theology for the Postmodern Jew" is so intense that a realist must despair or ever comprehending it. In this context, one is reminded of the advice which Chilon of Sparta gave and which Aristotle preserved: "Nothing in excess."  

Thus, the following assertion is not surprising: "Living in our ancestral land, one redolent of Jewish history, legend, and aspiration, and participating in a culturally self-determining Jewish community provides the Jewish people corporately with the optimum situation in which to work out its God-oriented destiny." (p.196). If the ancestral land offers Jews the best opportunity to effectuate their religious aspirations, the question arises whether that opportunity did not exist during the many centuries when the ancestral land was governed by others and its Jewish community too small for any meaningful self-determination? Has there been no place outside the ancestral land where Jews could live their religion and fulfill its precepts? Does the statement therefore mean that, since the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews have again the promising opportunity fully to realize Judaism’s hopes and dreams which are not equally realizable anywhere else on earth?  

"Corporate" Identity  

The perplexing word in this passage is "corporately," which means that all Jews who live in the ancestral land are united as one group and that as such they can and will consummate Judaism’s many ideals. Yet, the fact of life is that Jews, as secularists and as religionists, are manifoldly divided. The word "corporate" is hardly applicable to Jews, neither in the ancestral land nor anywhere else, unless some truly like-minded persons have formed a congregation or an association. Jewish corporateness is merely a notion and as such no factor in Judaism’s future.  

Judaism’s continuity is vouchsafed by the spirituality of the individual Jew, by that inner force which motivates, guides, enriches, and ennobles him or her, and enables him or her to be honest with himself or herself and live a decent life without greed and envy. Because spirituality cannot be measured or standardized, it cannot be programmed or devised. It grows with education in the sublime sense of the word and with adhering to a life style that unfailingly reflects wisdom of the heart and gentility of the mind. To such lifelong education of heart and mind for the sake of living a God-oriented life, Judaism can make admirable and sound contributions, if it is explored but not exploited. Men and women of such a bent are the guarantors of Judaism’s continuity.  

A biblical passage encouragingly avers: "In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you" (Exod. 20:21). Still, Prof. Borowitz asserts: "Nowhere can Jews hope to better fulfill the multilayered responsibilities enjoined on them by the Covenant than in the land of Israel organized as a politically sovereign, self-determining nation, the State of Israel" (p.290). Statistics indisputably show that religious Jews, though not familiar with the biblical passage, arrange their lives in its spirit and that those who for religious reasons take up residence in the State of Israel constitute a small segment of American Jews. From a practical and theoretical point of view, it is strange that such a statement should be made in the context of Judaism’s continuity when it is no secret that Israeli Judaism lacks spiritual vitality and moral spontaneity because it is controlled by its unenlightened and thus petrified Orthodox rabbinate. The author himself does not take his opinion seriously, for he has not acted in accordance with it.  

Programming Ethnicity  

Nowadays much energy is expended on programming this or that instead of cultivating and nurturing this or that. The book under discussion, Renewing the Covenant. A Theology for the Postmodern Jew, represents such programming in that it purposes to strengthen the sense of ethnic-national responsibility for Jewish continuity. It is not conceivable that programming, this device of the new technology, will be effective in stimulating concern to overcome the prevailing indifference and in forging some kind of common thought and orientation to replace our independence of mind. Life cannot be programmed by social or religious engineers, particularly not the life of a religious Jew, the life of mind and spirit. That life is lived by individuals who can rely on their hearts and minds for depth and enrichment, for propriety and dignity in all situations, for honesty with themselves and integrity in dealing with others.  

As long as these qualities of character are at the core of Jewish observances and rituals, and as long as parents are able to imbue their children with these human ideals and their faithful nurture within the setting of Jewish inspiration and motivation, the continuity of Judaism and its people should not be the object of worry. From generation to generation, they have abided together, the people deriving guidance and consolation from Judaism, and Judaism being endowed by its people with intrinsic worth and renewed lastingness. Some Jews, sincere and devoted, will always be present to keep this mutuality intact and effective.  

In the end, Judaism’s continuity is not secured by such grotesque notions as ethnic rootedness and settlement in the State of Israel for the sake of religious fulfillment, but it is assured by the devotion of Jews to Judaism wherever they live. In the end, that Jewish devotion is all that matters, in these days and in the future.  

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