The Myth of the New

By Dara Horn

Jewish Communal Service Association of North America (JCSA), Spring 2011

In America, we are used to thinking that the most important aspect of creative work is how "original" it is. Our artists and creative thinkers are supposed to be geniuses in garrets, working in isolation to create something out of nothing, and we reserve our highest praise for those whose work we judge to be the newest, the most "original," the most "experimental," the most unlike anything we have ever seen before. But Judaism's ideas about creativity are almost exactly the opposite of the American point of view. In Jewish culture, the highest praise is reserved not for how original a creative work is, but how unoriginal it is - by how well a story or an image or an idea builds on the thousands of years of "new" ideas that came before it. By this standard, an idea that comes out of nowhere is actually worthless, because what gives any idea its worth is how well it can be tested against the standards of the past. This would be a terribly crippling pattern if Judaism were 20 years old. But the past four thousand years of Jewish experience provide ample material for those looking to mine them for spare parts. And for the American Jewish community, poised on the edge of an American Jewish renaissance, the possibilities those spare parts present are nearly endless.

Topic: Innovation, Artistic Expression, Culture, Jewish Text, Yiddish

Name of Publication: Journal of Jewish Communal Service

Editor: Naron Chalew, Gail

Volume/Issue: Vol.86/No.1/2

Page Number(s): 10--13

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Genre: Article

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Horn, Dara. The Myth of the New. Journal of Jewish Communal Service. Jewish Communal Service Association of North America (JCSA). Spring 2011: 10--13. http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=13783


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