September 25, 2006

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
Peoplehood revisited

The October issue of Commentary has a bunch of letters responding to Cohen and Wertheimer's article on "Jewish Peoplehood," including a letter by yours truly that reiterates what I wrote in my column.

The authors dismiss my objections that their definition of peoplehood is both nostalgic and historically aberrational, but I was glad to read their praise for Steven Bayme, Gadi Taub and Eli Lederhendler, who "concur with [their] thesis that the connection ofAmerican Jews to the greater Jewish people is eroding, and move the discussion beyond the descriptive and analytical to the programmatic by identifying potential resources for the re-invigoration of Jewish peoplehood." What bothered me about the original article was not that it was "descriptive and analytical" but that it refused to acknowledge, or even allude to, the "potential resources" for re-invigoration. As a result, it was unduly dismissive of a generation of Jews who were lucky (the authors might say unlucky) enough not to have come of age in a time of Jewish existential crisis. (It reminded me of the Greatest Generation literature, which takes a gimlet eye to to post-Vietnam era America and concludes, "Kids these days...").

I'm glad that C and W find "great merits" in the trio's proposals, and encourage communal leaders to "act upon their ideas."

(The letters aren't on line.)

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