The Future of the American Jew

The Future of the American Jew

The Future of the American Jew

The Future of the American Jew

Excerpt

In a recent article on the Jews of Palestine Arthur Koestler takes occasion to offer advice to the Jews of the Diaspora. "I am in favor," he writes, "of Jews becoming assimilated with and absorbed by the countries in which they live. I think it is high time to liquidate this anachronism of a separate community all over the world, which cannot be defined either as a separate race or nation or religious sect, and whose insistence on remaining in one way apart has led to an unparalleled chain of massacres, persecutions and expulsions for fifteen hundred years."

That advice is entirely uncalled for, as far as orthodox Jews are concerned. For them the Jewish people possesses, in its Torah, the key to salvation, both in this world and in the world to come. They still believe with every fibre of their being that the Pentateuch was dictated by God to Moses. They take for granted that the Rabbinic interpretation of the Mosaic code is divinely sanctioned and, therefore, eternally binding. To Jews, who, believe thus, the career of the Jewish people is central in God's providential scheme for mankind. Even to suggest that such a people is an anachronism and has outlived its usefulness is sheer nonsense. No sacrifice can be too great, no suffering too unbearable for the sake of belonging to such a people.

However, what Koestler has to say about Diaspora Jewry does apply with searching and challenging penetration to those Jews whose faith in Israel's traditions has been shaken. Their number is undoubtedly on the increase. Not being able to subscribe to the traditional assumptions concerning the transcendental role of the Jewish people either as pivotal to the history of mankind, or as the sole bearer of the means to salvation, they cannot reconcile themselves to the anomalous character of the Jews as a corporate entity. Not knowing exactly what it is that unites all Jews and sets them apart from the rest of the world, they are always in a state of painful perplexity and inner conflict. They can see no vital purpose to a tradition which is remembered mainly for the blood and tears of those who lived by it in the past. They are wearied by the multitude of competing and overlapping organizations and by the lack of over-all organization and authoritative guidance. They cannot endure the boredom of having to live in a cultural vacuum. They are depressed by the unrelieved gloom which the dark clouds of fear and insecurity cast over Jewish life. No wonder so many of them try to escape it altogether.

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