Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Still here

It has been a while since I blogged. I am still here, but got busy and blogging just fell to the bottom of the to-do list (but not completely off the list). I thought the recent Pew Report “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” would provide a good opportunity to jump back in. In short, this report shows the importance of something that I and my co-bloggers (whom I am hoping will spare a bit of time from their busy lives to resume blogging as well) have emphasized: the importance of a religious understanding of Judaism as opposed to a cultural or ethnic understanding.

The problem for many of us is that a traditional religious understanding, as embodied most strongly by Orthodox Judaism (and some flavors Conservative Judaism), does not square with our modern understanding of the world. The hard sciences, Bible scholarship, history, archeology, and philosophy undermine many traditional factual and normative claims. And attempts to recast Judaism in terms of ethics and do-goodism, as embodied most strongly by Reform Judaism (and some different flavors of Conservative Judaism) are fine as good deeds, but they come up short as a religious approach to Judaism. Social action and tikkun olam and canned food drives are fine, but the trappings of Judaism—Torah readings and God and prayer and holidays—seem like a lot of unnecessary superstructure if all you are doing helping people in need.

Is there some genuine religious understanding of Judaism that works here? I think there is. I have sketched some of this out in previous postings, but have though about it a lot more in the past few years. I will be blogging about that, but will start with a few thoughts on the Pew Report. Stay tuned . . . .

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