Future of Judaism
Beyond Jewish Triumphalism
With all the changes, do you think there will come a time when we can say, yes this person is but no that person isn't Jewish? This person is a member of the tribe, that person is a friend of the tribe.
There are all kinds of ways in which you can cut that. If I begin genetically, it will be very clear that some people are not genetically Jewish and some people are. And many converts are going to be out if I use the genetic criterion. If I use the measure of self-identification, where someone says, I am a Jew because I identify as one, then there is another criterion for counting. The question is what criteria do I use -- why don't I want to count some people?
But I have a feeling that if you think of it sociologically, you'll find that there is a bell-shaped curve. The greater sample of people will be closer to the center where the curve is up, but there will be also be some people on the fringes. Jewish Renewal is moving closer to the center, away from the fringes. However, some of them are not moving toward the center. Some of them are being left behind, like the Karites and the Samaritans. Some of them will get lost.
I've noticed that certain movements may swing back and forth like a pendulum but they look for that middle area eventually.
That's correct, except that there are some movements that are moribund, that no longer have vitality. In the declining fringe areas you lose the vitality and in the upward fringe areas, you gain vitality. It moves forward, like a snail.
And something is left behind. So what about groups such as the secular humanists?
Ah, yes, the G-dless Jews.
This tried to be a movement, but seems clearly to be on the declining fringe. There are a lot of secular Jews but they don't identify with a movement.
They were very much interested in how to continue to be Jewish without having to have a god, an old man in the sky who's going to tell me "you mustn't masturbate," if I were to characterize that. So they have their shul and they celebrate the holidays, and Professor Reinus (one of the founders of the Jewish Secular Humanist movement) would be very happy with them. But we don't know what connects them to a Jewish identification. A lot of people can pass today as a non-Jew. Every Jew is a Jew by choice. So you can pass if you want to. And then the question is going to be whether the descendants will revert to faith in a generation or two, which often happens.
There's the story about a bris in Israel where the grandfather did not circumcise the father, but the father wanted to circumcise his son. And then the father also got himself circumcised as an adult. It's very hard to say. These are questions that I can't say much more about. Now, there's a possibility that for some Jews circumcision will not be a reality and I would regret that greatly. And it's happened already to a few families that I know of who chose not to circumcise their sons. But you don't know what will happen to those children and their choices.
Or why or how or when. One last question: What would be your dream of a perfect Judaism?
First of all, we would create a different siddur (prayer book) for every age. Old folks need a different siddur than younger folks need. I think Judaism also needs to find a way to daven (pray) in a minyan (normally a required quorum of ten Jews), but also create some equivalent for seven people and something for five people and so on and so forth. There should be different ways of creating minyan.