August 5, 2005

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
The end of Jewish history?

Are we at the end of Jewish history?

There is barely a Jewish population in need of rescue, perhaps for the first time in history. The big social issues — the role of women and gays, reactions to the intermarried, and the need for dialogue among the denominations — have been largely resolved, or at least the vast majority of Jews are able to find communities in which those issues have been resolved to their satisfaction. Despite talk of a “New Anti-Semitism,” few if any Jews in the West meet the kinds of impediments that blocked generations of Jews in education, the professions, housing, and social life. If anything, according to foes of intermarriage, gentiles are loving us to death.

I’ve compared this resolution of the big Jewish issues of the 20th century to political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s famous pronouncement of the “end of history” — the idea that liberal democracy had ultimately triumphed over all the other isms. Fukuyama did not assert that the world would be free from conflict, but rather that “there would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled.”

The obvious contradiction to the idea of the “end of Jewish history” is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which feels never-ending. But even there, the two-state solution has become a consensus position in Israel and beyond. (Put it this way: When was the last time you read an essay that staked out a new position on the conflict?) What’s going on in Israel is no longer a clash of ideas — it is a showdown between the will of the majority and what Fukuyama has called a “series of rearguard actions from societies whose traditional existence is indeed threatened by modernization.”

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