Rabbi Jen, I wish you were right about your description of Jewry but the facts on the ground seem to say otherwise:
As many have noted there are two sides of Jewry. Rabbi Jen nicely described one side. But in virtually every city around the world, Orthodox Judaism is growing, not steadily, but by leaps and bounds. Virtually 20 percent of the Jewish population under the age of 18 defines itself as Orthodox. Whereas in 1975 there were 450 Chabads worldwide there are now a staggering 2,700!
The fact is that the ghettoized nature of these communities doesn’t (at least in their minds) hurt their pockets, minds or marriages one iota. How can one not envy the care, love, and support embodied in the Syrain community? (Again, yes they are digusting in there treatment of converts..that’s obvious blah blah blah.)
The rise of orthodoxies worldwide–Jewish or other–is due in large part to the fact that they have answers. One of the main reasons why these groups emerged and have garnered strength is simply put from the fact that people are looking for answers in their lives and “the left” (to term it crudely) is content to celebrate the mess of life rather than to come to terms with the fact that people like their homes clean and tidy. Irrespective of how people actaully live their lives, no one likes to live in a pigsty. That urge to clean up life–to fix, to say that there is better and worse, and yes that answers are more important than understanding questions–is not disengenious, it is, dare I say, redemptive. You and I might not like the answers these groups offer, but that is what people are looking for in life. It’s the most natural thing, and if we ignore that instinct we will only push people further to more radical orthodox positions.
Regarding the question “Why be Jewish?” it animates different sectors of Jewry for very different reasons. It moves many Jews who live in the world of the unconvinced, but it also interests traditional Jews because that’s what they have always spent their days being engaged in.