New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora

New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora

New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora

New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora

Synopsis

For many contemporary Jews, Israel no longer serves as the Promised Land, the center of the Jewish universe and the place of final destination. In New Jews, Caryn Aviv and David Shneer provocatively argue that there is a new generation of Jews who don't consider themselves to be eternally wandering, forever outsiders within their communities and seeking to one day find their homeland. Instead, these New Jews are at home, whether it be in Buenos Aires, San Francisco or Berlin, and are rooted within communities of their own choosing. Aviv and Shneer argue that Jews have come to the end of their diaspora; wandering no more, today's Jews are settled.

In this wide-ranging book, the authors take us around the world, to Moscow, Jerusalem, New York and Los Angeles, among other places, and find vibrant, dynamic Jewish communities where Jewish identity is increasingly flexible and inclusive. New Jews offers a compelling portrait of Jewish life today.

Excerpt

We write this book as “professional Jews,” which we define as Jews who make a living from participating in Jewish education, culture, community, and society. Given this profession, we are frequently asked to declare our allegiance to Israel, a place that, although halfway around the world, for many seems to sit at the center of the Jewish universe. On David Shneer's first day on the job as the director of the University of Denver's Center for Judaic Studies, for example, a member of the Board of Directors asked, “What is your commitment to and stance on Israel?” Similarly, Caryn Aviv spent many years shuttling back and forth between Israel and Chicago. When today she recalls these travels, her students and colleagues, both Jewish and non-Jewish, frequently ask, “Weren't you scared to live there?” or “Isn't it dangerous?” More often than not, older Jews declare to her, “We need to support Israel no matter what. If we don't, who will?” Or they ask, “Isn't Israel supposed to be a bulwark against anti-Semitism?”

About Russia, where David travels for research nearly every year, friends and colleagues often ask, “Did you have to stand in line for bread?” or “Are there still Jews there?” or, most often, “It must be dangerous to be a Jew there, with anti-Semitism and the mafia running rampant.” Others respond to David's stories about his trips to Moscow by nostalgically reflecting on the 1980s, when American Jewry mobilized to “save Soviet Jews” by protesting at Soviet embassies, writing letters to congressional representatives, smuggling in prayer books, and raising money for Soviet Jewish immigrants.

In America, Jewish communal leaders continue to wring their hands over high rates of interfaith marriage, low levels of Jewish observance among new Jewish immigrants, the lack of a connection to Israel among large numbers of American Jews, the death of Yiddish, and the failure of the younger generation to “keep the faith.”

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