Howard Jacobson’s The Finlker Question just won the prestigious Man Booker Prize. Pretty wild considering it’s a British award and the book is entirely devoted to the meaning of being Jewish in the 21st century. That is Finkler’s question.
I recommend the book, but even more important than Jacobson’s wise and witty wrestling with that question, is what we come away with when we ask that question ourselves. What does it mean to be Jewish at this moment in human history? Is it different today than it was a generation or two ago? If so, how?
Whether or not one is Jewish, we can all ask what Jewish means to you? Jacobson describes himself as having been raised Jewishly, “in the New York way — We were stomach Jews, we were Jewish-joke Jews, we were bagel Jews. We didn’t go to synagogue.” Is that a real Jewishness? Does it have depth and meaning?
Despite the number of people who insist otherwise, it’s clear that the answer to those questions is ‘yes’. In the case of Howard Jacobson that kind of Judaism created the Jewishness which inspired the newest work of literature to be awarded one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards — Seems to me that one can’t get more serious than that.
So rather than worry about what Jewishness is not, where we don’t go or what we don’t do, I invite you to share your answer as to what is Jewish and what it means to you.