Virtual Talmud

Gary Rosenblatt’s op-ed in the Jewish Week titled “The Next Great Jewish Idea” should read “The Next Great Jewish Band-Aid.”

What is remarkable about the piece is that it contains not one idea. Instead of realizing that Jewish outreach and life is totally devoid of any powerful ideas and vision, Rosenblatt, who I consider a friend and deeply respect, continues the madness of confusing the word “idea” with public policy band-aid initiatives that try to make Jews more Jewish. A few of the more laughable initiatives he mentions are Rabbi Elliot Dorf’s suggestion that the Jewish demographic and intermarriage crises could be solved by convincing Jews to get married in graduate school.

Sure thing Rabbi Dorf, that’s really gonna fly in country whose average marriage age is only getting older and older. Besides, what would it even mean to encourage people to marry young? Should we give an extra $100 U.S. Savings Bond to every bar-mitzvah boy who chooses a bride at his bar-mitzvah celebration?

Another idea came from Dr. Bethamie Horowitz, research director of the Mandel Foundation, who for some reason asserted that “Jews don’t have to be cloistered” to live Jewish lives anymore, and that rather than ask “why be Jewish?” the question should be “why not be Jewish?” Hmmmmm. I think the Jewish Week should pay for Dr. Horowitz to go to New York City’s West Side for a Shabbat and see if Jews need not live in cloistered environments.

Today there is no longer one story–such as God’s decree, Zionism, or refusing to give Hitler a posthumous victory–that provides a persuasive rationale for being Jewish. Instead of working toward developing a new cadre of intellectual and moral leadership, instead of trying to explain to young people why investing in Judaism is worthwhile, the Jewish community continues to promote programs and short-term gimmicks to bring more Jews into the fold.

The biggest problem with the whole article (by the way, I am not the only one who was laughing or crying at this piece. The fact about the myriad outreach initiatives being put on the table is that almost none of them have any real long-erm vision. None of them respect the decisions that young people are making. None of them deal with the most important question–Why be Jewish?

Finally, none of them are ideas. They are all programs, and programs are not the same as ideas. Ideas provide vision, direction, and long-term attachment. Programs are there to implement ideas, and when you don’t have ideas, all you have are short-term gimmicks.

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