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In this week’s episode: Numbers 1-3. We consider the age-old tradition of counting Jews in benign and malign contexts and how one man’s count is another man’s kerfuffle.
ICYMI, have a look at the Eichmann document from the Wannsee Conference here. There’s also Timothy Noah’s piece at Slate about Nixon’s Jew Count and the transcripts at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia Presidential Recordings Program. And finally, the complete Pew Research Centre’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” as well as the eye-crossing sidebar on “Who is a Jew?” and the fun for the whole family Jewish population calculator!
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In this week’s episode: Leviticus 8-11. We begin puzzling out the vagaries of kashrut law and Jewish eating and end up with Chabad and Aish HaTorah trying to justify why we should marry only Jews when, technically, all of the patriarchs, Joseph, Moses, Boaz, David and Solomon and even the founders of Ashkenazi Jewry didn’t… And yet, despite the notorious Pew Report, the Jewish people keep on keeping on… or do they?
And ICYMI, the paper in Nature about how European women and NOT women from the Near East were the principal female founders of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe. You’ll want to read this with a cup of hot cocoa.
Here’s another interesting item, this time from the right column on page 14 of Pew Research’s A Portrait of Jewish Americans.
So what does it mean to be Jewish in the United States in the 21st century? Jewish Americans have spoken!
The Shoah (a/k/a Holocaust) comes in FIRST on the list.
Now it is important to note that respondents did not think that remembering the Shoah is THE CENTRAL PILLAR of Jewish meaning. As the report clarifies:
The survey asked Jews whether each of nine attributes and activities is essential to what being Jewish means to them, is important but not essential, or is not an important part of what it means to be Jewish.
According to respondents, the Shoah is an essential part of Jewishness, just a little bit more essential than leading an ethical/moral life.
There is some variation between Jews who self-identified “Jewish by religion” (76%) and those who self-identified as “Jews of no Religion” (60%) which yielded the NET of 73%. However, even among “Jews of no Religion”, the Shoah out-ranked Ethical/Moral by 5 points.
And if you read the latest piece by Peter Beinart, you would be nonplussed by the Shoah being 24 points more essential than caring about Israel. (If you are a “Jew of no Religion”, then the essential-ness of the Shoah knocked it out of the park by 37 points.) We are talking about American Jews after all.
I am not surprised by the data… but when I consider Hipster Anne Frank, Little Dicky, Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful”, Kirsten Dunst in Hallmark Channel’s “The Devil’s Arithmetic” and Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, who coined the term holo-kitsch in 2003 – I wonder:
What does it mean that something so essential to Jewishness is simultaneously and inexorably suffused with kitsch?
Considering all the posturing (here, here and here, for example) about how Orthodox Judaism is real, authentic Judaism and Orthodox Jews are the standard bearers of a five-millennia-long tradition, and how, after all the progressives and fakers and poseurs and Reformies assimilate into the ethnic soup which is North America, only the true and loyal Orthodox will remain, here is some data-driven news from Pew Research.
Orthodox Judaism bleeds Jews too.
That is, among those raised Jewish by religion and Orthodox, 52% are not currently Orthodox.
That is, more than half of the folks raised Orthodox do not remain Orthodox.
So I suppose only 48% of the Orthodox are the real, authentic Jews who are the standard bearers of a five-millennia-long tradition… and considering that the Orthodox’s slice of the denominational pie approaches 10%, the 48-percenters are an ever smaller tranche of that Jewy pie.
How will real Judaism survive?
You can read the full report here.