Why Be Jewish?

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On Sunday, I’ll be heading to Park City, Utah for a conference called called “Why Be Jewish?”

The 2 1/2 day affair, convened by Adam Bronfman and sponsored by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, is meant to jumpstart a communal conversation about Jewish life and values that takes us beyond questions regarding survival, continuity, and intermarriage.

The conference was organized by Rabbi Eliyahu Stern, who detailed some of his thoughts on the theme in last week’s Jewish Week.

While modernity, the Holocaust, the American Jewish experience and threats to Israel’s existence have forced us to confront serious demographic concerns, oftentimes we use such issues as a veil to cover our ignorance of our own tradition. As the Hebraist Simon Rawidowicz described in his classic, “Israel: the Ever-Dying People,� it’s easier to kvetch about one’s grandchildren needing to be Jewish than to give them a reason why they should be.

It might be heretical to ask, “Why be Jewish?� The results are unpredictable: we run the risk of failing to provide a convincing answer, making matters worse. But it is a timely and genuinely Jewish question. If we do not pose it, we face the even greater difficulty of promoting a Judaism that we are not sure we believe in ourselves. (MORE)

Conference participants include an eclectic mix of leading academics, intellectuals, and communal leaders including: Leon Wieseltier, David Ellenson, Tova Hartman, Bernard-Henri Levy, Anita Diamant, Esther Perel, and Art Green.

Posted on July 23, 2007

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