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December 10, 1993 - Image 73

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-12-10

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The Pea e D i v i d e int

thodox vs. non-Orthodox. Spirituality is some-
thing the Jewish community should have
been discussing a long time ago."

Third Era?


ut are American Jews ready for
such introspection? "I see a thirst-
ing," said Mrs. Cardin, "for what
makes us unique as a people and
for an ability to articulate to our family or our
co-workers. But this should not take place to
the exclusion of Israel."
Egon Mayer of the City University of New
York is less sanguine about U.S. Jews' spir-
itual questing.
"I'm skeptical about this spirituality busi-
ness," he said. "And I certainly don't think
that rabbis are any better at working on these
problems than anyone else, mostly because
theological education has avoided these is-
sues. It hasn't changed, in fact, in the last 100
Also convincing him that American Jews
will not gravitate toward spirituality is the
nature of religion in this country, which he
tagged "very mass-market oriented. Rabbis
move from small pulpits to bigger pulpits,"
although the most meaningful problems, he
said, occur at the most personal and intimate
level of professional and community life.
Peace may also give Jews a chance to
broaden their geopolitical vision. As Mrs.
Cardin said: "If this is the 'third era of Zion-
ism,' as some are now saying, it will give us
freedom to associate with the broader issues
of the world. If sharing water can be worked
out in the Middle East, it can be worked out
anywhere. If Israel can successfully deal with

its minorities, maybe these lessons can
be used in other countries, such as Ire-
Overall, goes the consensus, Jewish
identity will be strengthened, but not at
the cost of loosening American Jews' ties
to Israel. As Rabbi Greenberg said: "Is-
rael is a fundamental commitment of
Jewish life, not one that's aroused only
by crisis."
Virtually no one interviewed for this
article expects Jews to drift away from
Judaism if the crisis in the Mideast fi-
nally, irrevocably abates. But as one lo-
cal rabbi admitted, "There's a distinct
possibility of that. Somehow, the com-
munity will have to focus on Torah. By
that, I don't mean on one specific inter-
pretation about the text that created the
Jewish people. Because if we continue
business as usual, there'll be nothing for
people to hang onto."
Just what people will hang onto in the
future is a question mark. What is cer-
tain is that, as Calvin Goldscheider, head
of Brown Uni-
versity's sociol-
"Every genera-
tion creates its
own Judaism."
Israel's life-threatening emergencies over 45
years produced an American Judaism that
was often Israel-oriented. Subtracting Israel's
crises from Jewish life may not produce a Ju-
daism that is any less Israel-centered, but
possibly one that is more self-sufficient, with
interior resources it only dreams about now.
We shall see. ❑

"Israel did eclipse our spiritual progress.
Spirituality is something the Jewish
community should have been discussing
a long time ago."
Shoshana Cardin

For Federations, What's After Tsores ?

Canadian Jewish Agency in Israel.
leader recently
"One is 'Oh, my God, peace
longed for the good camel What do we do now?'
old days when Is- The other is, 'Oh my God,
raelis, Arabs and Palestinians peace came. It's a great mar-
were roughing it up. "What we keting tool. –
need is a good war," he told an
Members of this latter group,
Israeli journalist. "If you guys said Rabbi Allen, think fund-
don't have tsores (Yiddish for raising will improve because
"troubles"), we don't have a "they want to be with a win-
reason for being.
"But the official word from
Also in this group, said Hans
Jewish fund-raisers in this Meyer, executive vice president
country is that a potential of the Jewish Federation of
peace will barely dent the lev- Greater Houston, are Jews who
el of donations to Jewish caus- refused to contribute to feder-
es. '
ations because of Israel's poli-
"There are two schools of cies toward Palestinians.
thought," conceded Rabbi (Federations send about 40
Daniel Allen, assistant vice percent of their campaign
chairman of the New York- funds to Israel.)
based United Israel Appeal, the
But, Rabbi Allen believes Is-
conduit between the United rael has been a reason for giv-
Jewish Appeal and the Jewish ing to federations, not the


from a negative focus to one Vermont or the Dakotas.
Driving future contributions, of peace, education and trav-
Whether or not fund-raising
he said, will be Israel-bound el. People will respond and dips, soars or stabilizes, Egon
emigration from the former So- campaigns will do well.
Mayer of the City University of
viet Union, estimated at
"Local agencies are very im- New York's Center for Jewish
60,000 persons yearly for the portant, but they don't raise the Studies proposed a use for fed-
next five to 10 years. Emigra- big dollars. We need to link Is- eration funds that would break
tion is expected to meet pre- rael and our own communities the present barrier between
dicted levels because of the under a theme of oneness and federations (one of the Jewish
unstable situation in the for- tradition to be effective."
world's chief secular umbrel-
mer Soviet republics — and
Shoshana Cardin, chair- las) and synagogues (the reli-
because a Mideast peace will woman of CLAL, the National gious umbrella).
make aliyah more attractive.
Jewish Center for Learning and
If the predicted Jewish spir-
Also expected to sustain pre- Leadership, even expects giv- itual renewal occurs, he said,
sent giving levels are "Jewish ing levels to increase to sup- federations may be obligated
continuity" programs (efforts port local federations' "unique to help synagogues hire more
at transmitting Jewish knowl- services;" to build "a style of rabbis. "The synagogue system
edge and identity to the next life in a peaceful Israel that's is not set up to provide spiri-
generation — and positive rea- exciting;" and to "create strong tual and emotional guidance,"
sons for being Jewish.)
Jewish communities" in re- he said. "Not when one rabbi
Joel Tauber, national chair- gions of the United States has to serve as many as 200
man of the WA said a restruc- where there are now small families, and that's considered
turing of themes is key.
pockets of Jews, but not much a small congregation."
"We need to move away organized Jewish life, such as
- A.J.M

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