“political scientists have mainly regarded political parties as a healthy way of counteracting the power of single-issue interest groups.”

…because parties are necessarily alliances of disparate constituencies, political scientists have mainly regarded them as a healthy way of counteracting the power of single-issue interest groups. It’s hard not to wonder about an account in which a party is captive to interest groups at some moments but not at others.

Nicholas Lemann, “Evening the Odds,” The New Yorker (23 April 2012), 73.

“It is in the nature of intellectual life…to gravitate toward the extreme alternative position”

It is in the nature of intellectual life – and part of its value – to gravitate toward the extreme alternative position, since that is usually the one most in need of articulation…. We want big minds to voice extreme ideas, since our smaller minds already voice the saner ones.

Adam Gopnik, “Facing History,” The New Yorker (9 April 2012), 74.

“All Zionists agree also that an undivided Jerusalem must remain Israel’s capital”

All Zionists agree also that an undivided Jerusalem must remain Israel’s capital. This is a matter of intense importance, not only to Israel and its supporters, but to humanity as a whole. During the nineteen years that Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, thirty-four of the thirty-five synagogues in the Jewish Quarter were contemptuously blasted into dusty rubble. Thirty-eight thousand Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives were wantonly destroyed; many tombstones were used to pave Jordanian army latrines. Even Christians residing in Israel weren’t not allowed to visit their shrines in the Old City.

Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 10.

“…historic Judaism has been neither religion nor nationalism exclusively, but religion and nationalism organically intertwined”

In truth, historic Judaism has been neither religion nor nationalism exclusively, but religion and nationalism organically intertwined. Whoever attempts to separate them, to make the tradition appear as if it were only religion or only nationalism, will succeed in concocting an aberrant monstrosity, a caricature which won’t even resemble authentic Judaism.

Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 2.

“Let the Jew really become familiar with this part of his heritage”

Let the Jew really become familiar with this part of his heritage. Let him, through a little effort at learning and devotion, come to know and to understand his faith, even if only in a very simple and elementary manner. He will soon realize that Judaism is a superb religious philosophy of life, a religion which is highly intelligent as well as being emotionally deeply attractive; that it is forward looking and indomitably hopeful; that it is a religion through which mankind can really seek and progressively find its salvation and happiness upon earth.

Leon I. Feuer, On Being a Jew (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1947), 76.

“we Jews almost defy definition. We are a unique demographic group; none of the customary sociological categories is a perfect fit for us”

We must begin by trying to define Judaism and the Jewish people, no easy task even for one who has spent a lifetime studying Jewish history. Worlds like religious and secular and nationalistic, which have clear-cut meanings in other contexts, become fuzzy and confused when applied to us. The plain fact is that we Jews almost defy definition. We are a unique demographic group; none of the customary sociological categories is a perfect fit for us.

 

We are a religious group, true, but simultaneously more than that. We share some facets of national existence, but not all of us partake of them fully. We are an ethnic entity, yet at the same time an admixture of many races. If we are to be defined with any measure of accuracy, a new term must be devised, peculiarly and uniquely for us.

Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 1.

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“The conundrum is how to explain to your kids that Jar Jar and Watto are stereotypes without first introducing the stereotypes that you are hoping to negate…”

I managed to avoid the recent rerelease of “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” in 3-D, but only barely. Every father who loves the original “Star Wars” trilogy eventually runs into the fiasco that is Jar Jar Binks — a character capable of destroying a generation’s worth of affection with a single rustle of his oversize ears. While many have noted Jar Jar as a racist stereotype, it’s unclear exactly which stereotype he is. Is Jar Jar a Rastafarian stoner or a Stepin Fetchit or a Zuluesque savage? Or is he just a Gungan? And what about Watto, also from “The Phantom Menace”? A dark-skinned, hooknosed, greedy slaveholder, he’s an all-purpose anti-Semitic caricature. Or possibly he’s just a hovering bad guy in a fantasy world. The conundrum is how to explain to your kids that Jar Jar and Watto are stereotypes without first introducing the stereotypes that you are hoping to negate.

Stephen Marche, “Loompaland is a Complicated Place”, New York Times Magazine (17 June 2012), 61.

“To understand Zionism in anything more than a superficial sense, we need to examine its indigenous origins in Jewish tradition”

To describe Zionism purely as a modern, socio-political phenomenon makes about as much sense as to explain my career entirely in terms of events since the day I was ordained a rabbi, as if my genetic heritage, my childhood and adolescence, my undergraduate studies and extracurricular activities had nothing to do with making me what I am today.

 

Of course there have been external tendencies and trends which have helped shape the nature of Zionism, among them Emancipation, Enlightenment, massive anti-Semitism, and the burgeoning of nationalism throughout the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But these have been like the winds and rains which influence the ultimate growth of a tree. Without seeds and roots, wind and rain would produce only gullies, not living organisms. To understand Zionism in anything more than a superficial sense, we need to examine its indigenous origins in Jewish tradition.

Roland B. Gittelsohn, Partners in Destiny: Reform Judaism and Zionism (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1984), 1.

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“There is no young leadership if the young people branded as such have no real place in these bodies”

We have to make space for these young leaders in our normative governing structures. There is no young leadership if the young people branded as such have no real place in these bodies. Observing may be informative and donating a certain minimum gift is nice too, but to have young leadership means that they have a proportional share of the leadership body of the organization.

Sarah Eisenman, “A Young Leadership Lesson, From 1960?” eJewish Philanthropy (3 July 2012) {http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/a-young-leadership-lesson-from-1960/}

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Aesthetic Identity versus Collective Identity in the Jewish World

In referencing Jewish sociologist Steven Cohen, Smokler distinguished between the normative and aesthetic approach to Judaism – with the normative approach meaning anything larger than oneself and one’s immediate family while aesthetic refers to the more personal and journey oriented approach.

 

“We have reached an extreme where the normative approach has become the purview of the Orthodox community,” said Smokler. “Without the normative approach, the very idea of community is strained, [and what we’re left with is] a lifestyle enclave, a group of individuals with similar consumer patterns.”

 

“We face a challenge that young potential leaders do not have a collective identity – they have an aesthetic identity. We need both,” he continued.

Abigail Pickus, “The Search for the Jewish Holy Grail: NextGen Leaders,” eJewish Philanthropy (3 July 2012) {http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/the-search-for-the-jewish-holy-grail-nextgen-leaders/}