November 1, 2010

Then Why Be Jewish? (originally posted July 21, 2009)

In Natan Sharansky's first interview as Jewish Agency head, he seems to say that instilling strong Jewish identity among young Jews in the West is important for aliyah. U.S. community leaders think Jewish identity is important for demographics.
I still believe Israel is important for Jewish identity and Jewish identity is important for... Jewish identity. Why else have Jews in the first place? If we are indeed the "chosen people", we weren't chosen for numerical superiority (barely 13 million today) and it wasn't because they needed to fill empty tents in Canaan. Maybe there was a higher purpose, and living in Israel is the logical fulfillment of that purpose, but is it the purpose?
If we don't all move to Israel, is Jewish identity primarily useful to ensure we'll marry other Jews, and raise Jewish kids who will marry other Jews, etc.? That doesn't seem worth all the trouble. So, I disagree with that line of thinking.
I believe we need to stop making excuses and justifications for Jewish education and Jewish content. It is what it is, and that should be enough.

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