Orthodoxy and Same-Sex Marriage

As the JTA reports, the Orthodox Union opposed New York's recent measure legalizing same-sex marriage. But might one Orthodox rabbi have exerted a degree of influence in favor of the law's passage?

Possibly. Influence is difficult to measure, and the decision ultimately rested in the mind and heart of each state senator... but possibly. Zeek reprints an open letter from Rabbi Steven Greenberg, the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, to Sen. Steven Saland of Poughkeepsie, one of the two crucial Republican swing votes. In the letter, Rabbi Greenberg appeals to the memory of Saland's rabbinic ancestor, Rabbi Shmuel Salant -- a tactic shared by Agudath Israel in their own appeal to the senator, from the opposing side.

Whether Rabbi Greenberg and the Agudah had any impact or not, Saland voted for the measure in the end, putting the legislative question to rest in the state of New York. But within Orthodox Judaism, the question of how to relate to the modern world's ever-solidifying acceptance of homosexuality will continue for many years to come. Rabbi Greenberg, of course, is a significant voice in this internal debate, as are other gay Orthodox Jews, whose personal experiences make this issue impossible to ignore.

Yet, for all the consternation that this issue understandably causes in Orthodoxy when it comes to questions of halakhah, ritual, and other internal matters, it is somewhat baffling that Orthodox Jews should feel the need to maintain a correspondence between secular and religious definitions of marriage. As Rabbi Michael Broyde and Rabbi Shlomo Brody point out in the context of an article articulating a clear and strict opposition to homosexual sex,

Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in multicultural democratic societies like America. The pragmatic decision to support equal rights for gays in the political realm is not inconsistent with our view that the underlining activity violates Jewish (and Noachide) law. We support religious freedom for all, even as we are aware that some might use this freedom to violate Jewish or Noachide law. Similarly, it is wise to support workplace policies of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, just as we support such non-discrimination based on religion, even though these laws equally protect, for example, pagans. Discrimination based on lifestyle choices may threaten our own liberties, including freedom of religious expression... 

Rabbis Broyde and Brody go on to specify that both political opposition to and political support for same-sex legal marriage are within the realm of reasonable Orthodox choice:

If one believes a civil prohibition of same-sex marriage does not threaten our rights in the long term, then joining a political alliance opposing such, based on shared values or interests, seems reasonable. If, however, one views such a campaign as an infringement of civil liberties, or a potentially bad precedent that might endanger our interests in other areas of civil life, then one should not feel compelled to combat gay marriage.

If this is not a ringing endorsement of civil marriage equality, neither is it the stance of clear opposition taken by the Orthodox Union.

The Orthodox argument in favor of maximum liberty is not a recent invention; as the blog Failed Messiah notes, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was essentially anti-abortion (except to save the life of the mother), and yet also essentially pro-choice. "In Rabbi Feinstein's view, the decision to abort was a decision that should be made by the woman and her rabbi, not by Congress."

Ultimately, as homosexuality becomes increasingly normalized in the broader world, Orthodoxy's internal and external stances on this issue will be increasingly tested and challenged.

Intermarriage and Complexities of Antisemitism

rings

Jewish Ideas Daily recently highlighted a fascinating gem from the Atlantic Magazine in 1939: I Married a Jew, an anonymous personal reflection by a German-American woman married to a Jewish American man.

The article is an amazing read, deserving of much more detailed discussion than I have time to devote in this post, but I will say in briefest summary that the mix of sympathy for Jews as individuals and revulsion for various expressions of Jewishness which this author displays is incredible. She loves her husband and his family (unless they're all together as a family), and she will even countenance a little (not too much) Jewish pride, especially as relates to Biblical figures such as Moses, Solomon and (naturally) Jesus, but she is also very put off by Jewish cultural distinctions, favoring complete assimilation, and speaking of the world's "Jewish problem" as a product of oppression on one hand, and of Jewish (stereotypical) villainies, which she takes to be very real and very problematic, on the other.

What strikes me as so important about this article is not its being out of date, but rather its relevance to the present. If one removed the dismissive comments about Hitler being unfortunate yet not particularly unique or worrisome, and made only a little subtle revision to the terms, emphases and frames of reference, then this woman's viewpoint could just as easily have been written yesterday as in 1939. (Indeed, a few reader comments below the article reveal that some people apparently thought it was written in the present. Not that internet comments prove anything.) Modern American culture does not embrace all of the anti-Jewish views which are affiliated with traditional Christian anti-Judaism, but modern American culture certainly does share with this author a distaste for Jewish "clannishness" and particularism -- witness the ubiquity of intermarriage among Jewish characters on TV and in movies. Hollywood's usual portrayals of intermarriage assume that intermarriage is not only acceptable, but actually desirable. This perspective differs in many ways from our 1939 author, who blames the Jews for their own persecution during European history. But it shares with her the fundamental assumption that Jewish assimilation is the answer to Jewish problems. This reflexive sense that Jews are okay as long as they aren't too Jewish is very much alive in 2011.

Intermarriage as a catalyst for the exposure of uncomfortable disagreements is another element that makes this 1939 article strangely up-to-date. These marital dynamics are echoed in this recent blog post by Allison Benedikt, another deeply personal reflection centering on an intermarriage, this one from the perspective of the Jewish partner. In the post, which has prompted many strong reactions, especially from Jeffrey Goldberg, Benedkit describes her unquestioningly Zionist childhood and her transformation, as an adult, into a passionate anti-Zionist, influenced significantly by the strong anti-Israel views of her non-Jewish husband. I hasten to add that I'm not making an equation or a conflation with this juxtaposition of the two articles. By comparing them, I don't mean to equate Benedikt's husband to the 1939 author of I Married a Jew, or to equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism. But I do mean to note that in both cases, an intermarriage has the effect of forcing the couple to take a stand on an extremely divisive issue of peoplehood. Writing in response to Benedikt's piece, Julie Wiener notes that Intermarried Does Not Equal Anti-Zionist. She's right, of course, but it would be folly not to admit that a marriage across the religio-ethnic divide is more likely than an in-marriage to force a conversation on these, and other, difficult topics.

Not that conversation is a bad thing. One difference between today and 1939, perhaps, is that conversations about these feelings do not tend to occur as openly. Nobody wants to be branded a bigot, and these days Americans of all persuasions tend to throw around such labels quite freely. We seem to think of antisemitism, like other forms of intergroup hatred, as a binary, all-or-nothing phenomenon. To listen to contemporary American discourse, a person is either "an antisemite" (a noun and an identity), or else a "normal" person, who is presumably completely free of anti-Jewish bias. (The same underlying assumption could be cited with regard to homophobia, sexism, racism, etc.) Reality, of course, is much more complicated, as this 1939 article reveals. Love and hate can be present in the same person. Faulty assumptions, negative emotional reactions, and prejudices can (and usually do) coexist in the same brains with genuine love and respect for the "other" group in question. Admitting as much might allow everyone to be more honest with one another, without anyone being afraid of being labeled a bigot, and without anyone else being afraid to point out when an idea is bigoted. The trick is to be able to criticize ideas (even quite strongly) without demonizing the people who hold them (except in the most extreme and obvious cases of open hatred). That would leave space for quite a few difficult -- and necessary -- conversations.

Four Decades of Vital Jewish Discourse

Listen

If you subscribe to our newsletter, then you already know that the journal Sh'ma and BJPA have recently officially launched the complete collection of the journal, from its inception in 1970 until the latest issue. Read the press release here.

This collection has already become a crucial part of BJPA's overall holdings -- not only in size (Sh'ma articles currently make up over a third of BJPA publications), but also in broadening the scope of the archive. A bird's-eye view of the context of Sh'ma within our other holdings will help to explain:

Our other largest single content contributor, the Journal of Jewish Communal Service (with its predecessors, Jewish Social Service Quarterly and the Bulletin of the National Conference of Jewish Communal Service) is professionally oriented, and for much of its history, focuses mainly on social work. Many other of our publications are studies, reports, surveys, and other research-oriented publications. (For a few recent examples, see Limud by the Lake Revisited or Child Poverty and Deprivation in the British Jewish Community.) Also common among BJPA publications are professional analyses and recommendations. (For example, see this AJC Statement on Religious Pluralism, or Celebrating Distinctions: A Strategic Plan for the LGBT Alliance.)

Each of these types of publication (and more) provides a different kind of perspective on topics of Jewish policy. One element that makes Sh'ma unique among these sources, however -- and one reason that this launch is so significant -- is that Sh'ma is a platform for such a diverse range of approaches. Academic research is important, but so are the free-wheeling commentaries on traditional texts in Sh'ma's NiSh'ma series. Professional best practices and social work methodologies are important, but so are the more informal reactions of influential Jewish leaders and authors to the pressing issues of the day. Detailed analyses and reccommendations are important, but so are the dynamic and multi-voiced debates presented in the pages of any given issue of Sh'ma on any given topic.

Additionally, and not unimportantly, Sh'ma is reader-oriented and accessible. To be sure, the journal is policy-relevant and substantive, but it is also  accessible to the general reader in a way which some of our other material is not. This is not an insult to that less accessible material; professional literature and social science demand a high level of detail. But as we officially launch the complete Sh'ma collection, it's important to recognize that emphasizing strong writing (as Sh'ma consistently does) can also be a powerful policy tool.

1967 Borders, and How to Lie With Maps

Israel, sans Green Line

As Jews in America, Israel and elsewhere continue to mull over President Obama's Middle East speech last Thursday, and his subsequent explanation at the AIPAC conference, "1967 borders" have become the topic du jour.

In 2008, Hannah Weitzer of Windows-Channels for Communication observed in Sh'ma that Diaspora Jews are accustomed to looking at maps of Israel which do not mark the Palestinian territories, or the "Green Line" that represents the 1967 border. "Drawing in the internationally recognized border between Israel proper and the occupied territories is not a quick fix for all of the issues surrounding Israel education," she writes. "But teaching with maps that lack the green line is indicative of a larger gap between fact and myth that runs rampant in teaching Israel to Diaspora Jews."

But if a map without the Green Line is deceptive, might not a map featuring a hard, solid, 1967-style Green Line be equally deceptive? In the same issue of Sh'ma, history professor Derek J. Penslar cautions against oversimplification in cartography:

"I have a colleague at the University of Toronto who teaches a course called 'How to Lie With Maps.' Supporters of Israel might well suggest as required reading for this course Palestinian maps that show a unitary Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan with no sign of Israel’s existence. Yet Israeli maps, and those produced by and for Diaspora Jews, rarely mark the Green Line that constitutes the country’s internationally recognized borders."

Yet is the answer simply to replace one simplistic map with another simplistic map?

"The best way... would be through maps that faithfully depict the constant presence of Jews and Arabs in the same landscape... Superimposing maps would display the geographic structure and distribution of each community along with the points of intersection between them."

Penslar's chief concern is diachronic -- he wants to help people to understand the development of Arab and Jewish populations in Israel/Palestine over time. But I think his point is even more interesting if taken synchronically -- as a model for looking at the present moment. The reality of Jewish settlement blocs, along with Arab-majority population centers in Israel proper, makes the prospect of a neat and tidy border along the Green Line completely untenable. Besides which, the Green Line was not set in stone or decided upon by any kind of treaty or decree -- it's basically a cease-fire line marking troop positions during a pause (lasting from 1949 until 1967) in a war that started in 1948 and has never actually ended. President Obama, of course, recognizes this, which is why he included the phrase "mutually-agreed swaps" in his speech.

In any case, Penslar's point at its core is that a simple map is a deceptive map, and I think perhaps observers of all but the most extreme positions can agree with that.

Complexity

From the J-Vault: Kids for Peace

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The year was 1915, and the Great War (World War I) was devastating Europe. An ocean (and then half a continent) away, The Chicago Hebrew Institute decided to enlist their Sabbath and Sunday school students to promote the ideal of peace.

This week, from the J-Vault: A Peace Movement Among Children (1915)

Writing in the Bulletin of the National Conference of Jewish Charities, Philip L. Seman used terms for his school's initiative which, in modern times, would be criticized as an unacceptable form of indoctrination of the youth:

The children of the Peace Society are recruited from various classes conducted at the Institute, particularly from the Sabbath and Sunday school. The main effort is to saturate the children's minds and hearts against the horrors of war, and in favor of universal peace. At a recent meeting of the teachers of the Sabbath school, we have made clear that the teachers, in instructing the children in Bible history, should underestimate the heroism, too often made much of in the Sabbath schools, regarding the wars the Hebrews fought in early days, and to draw ethical lessons in favor of peace. In other words, our teachers were instructed, not as has been the fashion heretofore, to encourage young Judea to emulate the militarism of the Maccabees, but rather to hope for the realization of the human peace prophecy of Isaiah.

Read more...

Browse the BJPA for publications on War and Peace, or search for "indoctrination".

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Video: Building a Passionate Middle Ground

In a video interview, Dr. Micha Goodman of Ein Prat tells BJPA Director Prof. Steven M. Cohen that religious Israelis are too closed, and secular Israelis are too disconnected from tradition. We need a passionate middle ground, he says. Watch on YouTube, or below.

 

Wiesel at Wagner

by Aimee Gonzalez

(cross-posted at Wagner Today)

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel, whom many consider to be the most articulate witness of the Holocaust and whose work, Night, has become a classic account of that time, visited New York University’s Puck Building on April 12th with the Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. In light of his most recent publication, An Ethical Compass, and the general theme of social entrepreneurship Wiesel discussed ethos, and why we need it to advance society.

Speaking to a room filled with students, community members and faculty, Wiesel asked, “Where are we? With so many changes, convulsions, what is happening to the world? We need a historic compass,” to situate and orient ourselves. That compass is ethos.

For Wiesel, ethos “is a choice between good and evil. How can we make such a distinction? First decide what is not good—anything involving humiliation of the other.” He discussed Hitler and Stalin’s use of their leadership position to preach an ethos that was not truly there—and was instead a way to justify millions of deaths. Wiesel reminded his audience that “the choice is always in our hands.” He gives the example of the SS (Hitler’s protection force that grew into a paramilitary organization), emphasizing that they had a choice. In fact, it was a voluntary position; no one should ever believe that they were coerced.

Given Wiesel’s life story, references to Hitler and Nazi Germany are inevitable. However, he also defines ethos as generally “respect[ing] the other for whatever the other is.” His childhood love for the others in his community, beggars and madmen, grew into the social activism he is well known for today. To illustrate this respect for the other, he gave the example of his visit to German President Johannes Rau, in which he pointed out that the one thing Germany had never done was to ask the Jewish people for forgiveness. In 2000, Rau flew to Israel and went before the Knesset, and wrote letters to survivors, asking for forgiveness.

Wiesel gave another example of his social activism, the mediation between the Minister of Apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela. After many days of frustration, he “took them into a room and said, ‘talk to each other.’ That was the beginning of the end of apartheid.”

His policy of respecting the “other” in others has earned Elie Wiesel recognition and reputation beyond his story of survival. Although he has written extensively about his experience, and especially the challenge of writing about the Holocaust, he has also been an activist on behalf of other humanitarian causes. (See, for example, this 2000 open letter of advice to then-President Clinton regarding the situation in Sudan.) Wiesel has also established a foundation to combat injustice and indifference worldwide.

Browse the BJPA for more resources on the Holocaust, Holocaust Education, Genocide, Human Rights, Global Responsibility, and Ethics.

Publications on Difference at Passover

Four Cups

Across Barriers

 

Publications on the mixed, modern Seder

 

The First Cup: Mixed Marriages

Passover, a Lesson in Inclusiveness

Adam Bronfman, Kerry M. Olitzky, 2009

 

The Second Cup: Jews and Christians

Is Every Seder Kosher for Passover?

A. James Rudin, 1999

 

The Third Cup: Jews and Palestinians

Sharing Pesach with a Palestinian

Lawrence Baron, 1988

 

The Fourth Cup: Jews and Jews

Keeping Peace at the Seder Table

Sally Shafton, 1984

 

Explore many more publications about Passover at bjpa.org

Tragedy as Fundraising Fodder

The Jewish Week reports on an email AIPAC sent following last week's terrorist attack in Jerusalem, treating the bombing as an opportunity to raise funds. Critics were quick to pounce: Matt Duss of ThinkProgress.org called it "crass". “It is disgraceful," he wrote, "that AIPAC’s first response to this tragedy is to try and monetize it.” Within hours, AIPAC sent an apology, saying that "it was wrong of us to mention this terrible tragedy the same day it occurred in the context of this email."

What, in particular, was wrong with this email? As Steve Lear, founder of the Jewish disaster response organization NECHAMA, told the Journal of Jewish Communal Service in a 2009 interview, "When disaster strikes, people want to help, but they need an avenue by which to do so." Furthermore, it surely can't be the timing; as the Jewish Week notes, American Friends of Magen David Adom and ZAKA both created similar emails mentioning the attack, on the very same day. Was there any outcry related to their fundraising pitches?

The Jewish Week quotes Jeffrey Solomon as explaining the difference thus: "there must be a connection between the mission of the charity and the immediate reaction. … The response is usually to help those affected by the tragedy, and that is the disconnect in this situation.” But is there really a disconnect? Those who disagree with AIPAC may believe that AIPAC's lobbying activity does not provide immediate and vital assistance to the victims of this attack, but I imagine AIPAC and its supporters would say otherwise.

In fact, the text of the offending email itself included this sentence:  "This recent upswing in terror attacks reminds us why it is so important that we work to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and help keep our ally Israel safe and secure." The assertion seems to be that the political work AIPAC does is just as necessary to help traumatized Israelis as is medical attention. One may agree or disagree with that assertion, but it is disingenuous to claim that AIPAC is not trying "to help those affected by the tragedy". The only matter of real debate is whether the kind of help they provide is really the kind of help that is necessary, and I doubt anyone's opinion on that question really hinges on the timing of an email.

Imagine a parallel situation: what if it had been J Street who sent out a fundraising letter that day, arguing that this attack makes it ever more urgent to pursue peace? AIPAC supporters would have gone mad criticizing them for crass opportunism, but one can easily imagine that many dovish Jews may have had precisely this reaction to the terrible news. Is there really any basis for declaring one pitch crass and the other vital, other than the observer's pre-existing political beliefs? And if both sides are thinking these "crass" thoughts anyway, are we just asking them to shut up about it? If so, for how long? One day? Two days? What, precisely, is the half-life of "crass"?

As David M. Pollock noted in 2007, Jews have always treated catastrophes as opportunities to build something of greater, transcendent meaning -- whether spiritual projects for the religious, or more earthly and political projects for Zionists, for example. Does good taste and sensitivity demand that our responses to these tragic events must not be controversial or divisive in any way? And if so, are we willing to extend this principle to our own side of these difficult issues, or only to those crass opportunists on the other side?

As always, these points reflect my own musings; the BJPA itself takes no position. But in addition to the two JJCS articles linked above, you can browse other BJPA publications on the topics of Disaster Management and Fundraising.

From the J-Vault: National Security, Individual Rights

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Last week, Congressman Peter King convened hearings on domestic Islamic terrorism, leading many to criticize Congressman King for making a particular religious group a target. Numerous Jewish leaders were strongly critical of the singling out of American Muslims as a community. "It reminds me of the red-baiting in the ‘50s," said Rabbi Nancy Kreimer to the New York Jewish Week. Said Congressman King (quoted in the same article), "We live in the real world. I don't have the luxury of feel-good politics and everyone saying love one another when people out there are trying to kill us."

Since Rabbi Kreimer suggests that Cold War anti-communism is an illustrative backdrop for this issue, this week's historical publication is drawn from that era, and that issue.

This week, from the J-Vault: Internal Security and Individual Rights Today (1951)

Congressman Jacob K. Javits, speaking to the National Conference of Jewish Social Welfare, argued that the gravest threat facing America comes from efforts by the intolerant to suppress dissent by measures invoked ostensibly to protect the security of the State but actually to destroy individual rights. Read more...

You can also read Arthur J.S. Rosenbaum's introduction of Congressman Javits, and Sanford Solender's response, drawing implications for Jewish communal service.

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PLO Representative at BJPA: “Don’t Blindly Support Israel”

(Cross-posted at Jewschool.)

by Aimee Gonzalez

The Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner hosted PLO Representative Maen Areikat at a luncheon on March 2nd to discuss the role of American Jews in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

A mix of professors, students, Jewish communal leaders, journalists and others came to listen to Representative Areikat discuss the situation between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government, and what needs to happen for the peace process to move forward. As the JTA noted, this appearance is part of a larger effort on the part of the PLO “to open dialogue with the Jewish community.”

“Time is not on either side,” said Areikat, but he emphasized that it is of the essence. He stated that Israel has the opportunity to work with a willing Palestinian government who is committed to peace. Palestinians are frustrated, however, with the fact that Israel continues to build settlements while also claiming to want peace, he said. Areikat held firmly to the stance that “peace negotiations and settlements cannot go hand in hand” and contended that it is necessary to find a new approach.

Perhaps a new approach is on its way; in an article about the event, Haaretz noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu “is considering a plan to cooperate with the Palestinians on the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, as part of an interim peace agreement”. As that story had not yet broken widely in America while the event proceeded, no one asked Ambassador Areikat during the Q&A whether this idea would be acceptable to the PLO.

This discussion built up to the main point of the event—what American Jews should do. On this Areikat was clear: “Don’t blindly just support Israel. Do not abandon [it], but…look beyond tomorrow.” Practically speaking, he stated that American Jews should support their government’s efforts to end this conflict. Many Jews are reluctant to criticize Israel or support anyone who does, he argued, but a successful peace process requires recognizing positive steps from both sides, and condemning those who won’t cooperate—including Israelis.

The Jewish leaders in the audience for this event showed no signs of “blindly” supporting Israel. Every Jewish questioner during the Q&A voiced support for a Palestinian State. This may be because those who chose to attend this event were those who were most inclined to this position, but it may also indicate how marginal the position against Palestinian self-determination has become in contemporary American Jewish discourse. A few decades ago, opposition to any form of Palestinian nationalism was well within the American Jewish mainstream (see this piece by Avraham Weiss, and this by Richard Cohen). But at Wednesday’s event, this perspective was not evident.

The content of the discussion was hardly surprising, but the fact of the discussion is still noteworthy. While the event began with the formality of a diplomatic speech, by the end, when the Q&A broke down the wall between speaker and audience, it was a lively conversation over lunch.

Watch the video below:


Video streaming by Ustream

Proportions of Giving: A Tiresome Argument

eJewish Philanthropy is highlighting selections fromThe Peoplehood Papers #6 (available in full via the Nadav Fund site), dedicated to the tension between the principles of charity toward the stranger and charity to help one's own. A number of articles appear, with some arguing that the Jewish community must put Jewish needs first, and others arguing that Jews must look to the needs of all people.

This is an argument we have seen before. I think immediately of an exchange last year between Prof. Jack Wertheimer, who argued that Jews give enough to nonsectarian causes and should spend more enhancing Jewish knowledge and engagement, and Rabbi Jill Jacobs, who argued that meeting Jewish needs and meeting other people's needs is not a zero-sum game.

This argument is tiresome for two reasons. First, each side argues mainly against straw-man versions of the other. Listening to the more particularist voices, one might conclude that all outward-directed Jewish philanthropy is undertaken by people and organizations completely uninterested in meeting Jewish needs. On the other hand, listening to the more universalist voices, one would think that anyone who believes in prioritizing Jewish needs wants actually to abandon non-Jewish needs completely. In fact, thank God, neither of these characterizations is true. This is an unnecessary spat between two groups of good people, both of which are full of integrity and compassion. People on both sides of this debate actually agree that Jews should help both Jews and non-Jews.

The only substantive difference over which to bicker is the proportion: should 90% of our funds go to help Jews and 10% to help non-Jews? Or vice-versa? Or 50-50? Maybe we should make a complex actuarial formula that will tell us, conclusively, that 43.79% of communal funds should go to helping our fellow Jews...

And that brings us to the second reason this argument is tiresome: why are we so picky about the proportion? Aren't there better uses for our time and energy than sniping at one another about proportions of giving? We could, for example, spend that time actually helping someone instead. Any time a donor or volunteer or organization steps up to make a difference, we shouldn't wag our fingers at them because they are [too / insufficiently] insular and should be helping [Jews / non-Jews]; we should congratulate them with a big "yasher koach" for doing something at all.

If I may wax ironic for a moment: we have been blessed with an abundance of need. There is a great mass of physical and spiritual poverty; there is great need for both religious and sociopolitical education. If we are ever faced with the terrifying conundrum of not enough needs to be met, then we can indulge ourselves in frittering away our time arguing about the "proper" proportions.

Meanwhile, in the face of such a voluminous and diverse pool of needs, let everyone give where her/his inclinations tend, and it will all be to the credit side of the moral ledger. When our inclinations differ, what of it? The organization which focuses on Jews out of familial love, and the organization which focuses on people who do not happen to be Jewish out of universal love, are both doing essentially the same thing: helping people. When we keep that in mind, the differences ought to take on a secondary importance, at most.

Jewish Nonprofit Management > Jewish Communal Service

Earlier today, the HUC-JIR school of Jewish Communal Service was relaunched as the School for Jewish Nonprofit Management. EJewish Philanthropy reports that

it is the only graduate program of its kind that is embedded within a Jewish institution of higher learning and enjoys a special partnership with its neighbor, the University of Southern California. Students at the SJNM receive a cutting-edge education in nonprofit management grounded in Jewish history and values, as well as the opportunity to earn one of five dual degrees at USC.

Earlier this year, HUC-JIR student Carly Brown submitted her thesis, "Informing a Branding Strategy: A Competitive Analysis for the School of Jewish Communal Service" in which she analyzed three other, competing, dual-degree Jewish studies nonprofit management studies programs (including our own here at NYU Wagner). Her study included a detailed consideration of the naming/branding issue.

SJCS needs to pay particular attention to how it markets and brands its new name to potential Social Work students so that they do not feel alienated by the term “management.” In speaking with current SJCS students, who were also enrolled in the dual degree Social Work program at USC, many of them felt that the term “management” did not encompass the skills that they were aiming to obtain in their graduate program.

In an earlier blog entry, I explored whether the Jewish fundraiser was the new Jewish social worker, in terms of the Jewish community's concern about educating and nurturing these communal professionals. The renaming of HUC-JIR's academic program for Jewish communal professionals certainly seems to support the idea that the Jewish community is moving from a social work focus to a management orientation.

Predictably, perhaps, Brown found that "Generally, students in favor of the name change were dual degree students at USC earning an MPA, while those who were more tentative about it were dual Master students at USC in the School of Social Work." In fact, some students expressed strong distaste for the language of 'service':

She was turned off by the use of “service” in the title of SJCS; she felt that it reminded her of “servitude” and made her think of “the Federation worker, but not so much the person who is going to run the institution.”... [A community influencer] further explained “the words themselves, [referring to the name SJCS] are seen as being a servant, or diminishing,” and that the new name would be great for the school if it was “truly indicative of a new focus” and not just a cosmetic change.

 Of course the Jewish community needs, and has always needed, managers and non-managers and HUC-JIR is continuing to offer the programs to train both.

Whether the new name is indicative of a new focus or a cosmetic change, is moving from the discourse of 'service' to 'management' good for the Jewish community? Is it actually a positive expression of Jewish values? Will it bring greater professionalism to Jewish communal organization, or just greater commercialization? If someone's working on a thesis on this question, please send it our way!

"Resisting Re-ghettoization" Recap

Wagner Today, the student blog of NYU Wagner, provides a useful summary of yesterday's BJPA roundtable ("Resisting Re-ghettoization: From Without and Within") with journalist Yossi Klein Halevi:

The great post-Holocaust achievements were power and integration into the world community (and for American Jewry, the public space). Now both those achievements are under assault -- from without and from within. The legitimacy of Jewish power is questioned not only by the UN Human Rights Council, but also by increasing numbers of Jews. The integration of Jews into the world community is also under assault from without and within -- the diplomatic ghettoization of Israel, the growing power of the haredim and the religious right in Israel.

He emphasized that we need to re-commit the American Jewish-Israeli relationship to reaffirming Jewish power and the Jewish place in the community of nations. This means resisting the demonization from without -- and strengthening Jewish pluralism, especially religious pluralism in Israel.

Click here for their full summary, with a few pictures.

Tablet Magazine also covered the event.

Here came, for me, the most useful part of the conversation, because I got to see, in Halevi, something I had heretofore only read about: The widespread Israeli understanding of the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from all the Gaza settlements and a few in the West Bank as a complete disaster, which must never be repeated. “I don’t want Netanyahu to give anything away for free,” Halevi insisted, his voice carrying a harsh undercurrent for the only time that afternoon. The problem with extending the freeze for nothing in return, he said, is that the last time the settlements were put on hold—indeed, they were eliminated—in exchange for nothing, there were rockets; and then there was an attempt to stop the rockets; and then there was a near-total absence of international support for stopping the rockets; and then there was the Goldstone Report.

Read Marc Tracy's excellent overview of and commentary on the roundtable: Resisting ‘Re-Ghettoization’

Repairing the world since 1989 & BJPA's kabbalistic aspect

Can you remember a time before Tikkun Olam?

In Yehudah Mirsky's new paper, Peoplehood - Think and Strong: Rethinking Israel-Diaspora Relations for a New Century, among JPPI's policy recommendations to the government of Israel, he mentions Tikkun Olam as an anchor around which a common Diaspora-Israel Jewish identity and practice could be maintained and thrive. It seems to take for granted the idea that this concept, this formulation of the concept, is a widely held and deeply ingrained value.

On BJPA, this anchor of the Jewish people first appears in 1989. As far as its position in modern Jewish discourse, 'Tikkun Olam', as a term, has come a long way in a short time! The even more surprising thing is that it feels like a term that was never new at all.

Its first occurence in our archives is in Conflict or Cooperation? Papers on Jewish Unity, in Lawrence A. Hoffman's contribution "Jewish Unity and Jewish Peoplehood: A Reform Position". He says:

The survival of the Jewish people as an agent of tikkun olam requires that we work together regardless of differences on the many issues of moment that face us.

The next instance of its use feels like an even bolder taking for granted of this term's broad-based acceptance :

Our communal mission has remained the same since Sinai—a covenant fot Tikkun Olam, for repairing this imperfect world, for ensuring ajewish future—and only the formulation and configuration have changed. -The Future of the Profession: a Lay Leader's Candid View, Shoshana S. Cardin, 1989

Then all of a sudden it's all over the place. Starting in 1994, it appears in not fewer than three documents per year.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs published The History of "Tikkun Olam" in Zeek in 2007. She follows the term's roots back to the Aleynu prayer, probably composed in the 2nd century, and its waxing and waning in popularity until present times. She dates its first modern emergence to the 1950's, but notes that it really picked up steam in the '70s and '80s. Of the four understandings of Tikkun Olam that emerge from her historical survey, its modern incarnation draws the most from Lurianic thought.

The popularity of the term tikkun olam, and the general emphasis on its Lurianic, rather than rabbinic, roots may indicate a desire to place one’s own work in a larger context of influencing the greater world. In an individual’s search for the meaning of his or her own life, it may be more compelling to think of one’s every action as contributing to the repair of the cosmos, than to think of the same actions as simply accomplishing a small fix to a much larger problem.

And so it seems that, as usual, we get back to the Baby Boomers.

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