I am so sorry to report, American Jewish culture is in trouble, and some of it is being imported to Israel. Not much, thanks be, since it is mostly the faithful among us that are willing to risk it all to be, well…faithful and return home.
Around 80% of Jews in America (the non-orthodox component) consider their participation in Judaism to consist of proudly, even defiantly, eating lox & bagels on Sundays while their neighbors attend church, and watching Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year, while referring to it, quoting it and learning the dances depicted, or at least dutifully sending their kids to classes to learn those dances. And maybe even do a Fiddler on the Roof play, if they’re really ambitious.
In Fiddler on the Roof, Norman Jewison brought a touch of old Eastern Europe Jewish culture to us. Sholom Aleichem did so in his books, on which this movie is based. Not having actually lived through those times myself, I am unsure of the accuracy of this charming semi-tragic portrayal, but hey that’s showbiz. Really though, I enjoy Fiddler on the Roof and lox & bagels as much as the next Jew. Charming and delicious respectively. But, I don’t consider participation in these activities as equal to a Shabbos afternoon listening to a dvar Torah by a Talmid chocham.
And therein lies the problem. Most of American Jewry, while very proud of their heritage, know little to nothing about what it really means. They only know the stereotypes imposed on them by their enemies, and what popular culture tells them about Yiddishkeit. This then morphs into a Jewish community with little or no truly Jewish values, which thinks…that the values they do hold are indeed Jewish. No. They are non-Jewish values held by Jews. Misguided, unrealistic, painfully ignorant Jews. Then, these tragically disenfranchised Jews try and impose those non-Jewish values on the rest of us who’ve been taking our heritage very seriously all along.
More to the point, semi-Yiddishkeit movies and really yummy nosh are not the sum and substance of the Jewish worldview, nor will they assure our survival as a people.
I was inspired to kvetch about this sad state of affairs after some tag surfing. I ran across a post by Deb Reich at DesertPeace. In her post, where she is clearly longing for the messianic era, she has embedded the video below. Read the rest of this entry »