Since my initial post on Rosner’s Domain about the internet and its role in helping to democratize Judaism, there’s been some back and forth. Here tis:
Your response was insightful and very convincing on a technical level – online Judaism will change “religious hierarchies and leadership structures.” You failed to explain, however, why it is good, or necessary, to change those hierarchies. How will this make Judaism more appealing, or better, than it has been for centuries?
I’m glad you asked the question in that way because, I think, the democratization of Judaism can make Judaism both more appealing and better.
Why will it be better? Because Judaism will be richer, deeper, and more meaningful if it is shaped by a diverse group of people. I have a lot of friends who are male rabbis, but there’s no reason why they should be capable of forging Jewish life on their own. If Judaism is shaped by a multiplicity of voices, then it will resonate more broadly.
Why will the democratization of Judaism make it more appealing? Because choice and autonomy are the hallmarks of modern living.
If Judaism is to be more “appealing” for modern Jews, it must be self-made to a certain extent. Again, I don’t want to overstate things. Tradition, religious authority, precedent: these are all important. But in a world in which identities are, to a certain extent made-to-order, it’s important that Jews feel like they have a role to play in the shaping of their Jewish lives.
So, in this world of a more democratic Judaism, how will the editor in chief of MyJewishLearning be able to separate the insignificant from the meaningful, the worthy of the readers’ time from the sheer nonsense? Education is always about hierarchy. If your job is to tell me what’s important to learn – but you don’t have any rules, or hierarchy to build on – how will you do it?
Democracies aren’t free-for-alls. Just because everyone born in the United States can run for president doesn’t mean they will. But whether they run for president or not, they bear some responsibility for the state of their country.