Contrasting Judaism and Americanism

If Jewish identity is seen only through the lens of freedom, and unbridled freedom is the value you crave, then who needs Judaism when you already have Americanism?

It’s only when you expand the terrain of values that Judaism comes alive. There are at least three examples I can think of where Judaism contributes to Americanism by placing a higher emphasis on certain values.

One, while Americanism celebrates the individual, Judaism celebrates community. Two, while Americanism enshrines the pursuit of happiness, Judaism enshrines the pursuit of meaning. And three, while Americanism places a premium on human rights, Judaism places a premium on human obligations.

Three solid American values, three even higher Jewish ideals. In striving to balance them all, the Jewish way is not to downplay values but to err on the side of ideals. Even the value of freedom in Judaism is very much defined by its ideal — the freedom to seek meaning and do good deeds.

David Suissa, “An Oasis of Ideals”, Jewish Journal (25-31 October 2013), 8.

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