What shocked me the most, and I’m not sure why it did, about the recent report about the changing face of the Jewish community in New York (less secular, more orthodox and ultra-orthodox) is how much it reminds me of Israel. It’s not like I didn’t know this, but there’s nothing like statistics to back up an apocalyptic impression.
I’ve been playing around seriously with the thought that I just don’t want to care about what happens in Israel-Palestine, that there’s nothing I can do if the right-wingers in Israel want to do the dirty work of the anti-Zionist left and create a bi-national state, an apartheid one, perhaps only in the short or medium term. The problem is that what happens there happens here, and also vice versa. Will the liberal Jewish center collapse as it has in Israel, just as rightwing elements in the U.S. such as Sheldon Adelson and Roger Hertog at the Tikvah Fund continue to fund the rightwing in Israel?
Maybe Ahad Ha’Am was right, even if his model for Jewish life was too centric and hierarchical. What I think is true is the importance of Israel as a gravitational force that works the horizontal plane that is contemporary Jewish life. Anyone who cares about the future of American Judaism and liberal Judaism in the United States and Canada has to care about what happens in Israel-Palestine. And Israelis need to consider very seriously the way rightwing American Jews are very active shaping their political horizons. Like it or not, we’re all stuck with each other.
I guess that makes me a Zionist.
If and once Israel finally turns itself into the completely fetid sore it’s becoming, this will only confirm (verify) a sad possible truth that liberalism and Judaism are, indeed, incompatible, exactly as contended by conservative Jewish political theorists and practitioners. I’m tempted to think that, in this case, they can have it because, in my estimation, it won’t be worth having. But in the long run, the “it” in question will come to include Judaism tout court, not just Israel.
Increasingly, I think Peter Beinart was fundamentally right about it being a matter of time before young liberal Jews decide to walk away from all of it, away from Jews, Judaism, and Israel, if they haven’t done so already. Who knows? That will be their “decision,” not mine, and I understand that anything can and will happen, one way or the other, to either quicken or change the direction of things, suddenly. At any rate, it’s too late for me to walk, I’m already middle aged. For a brief moment, it was 1985, my friends and I were the future. It’s liberating to understand this to be no longer true., and to try to accept the reality of change, that whatever happens will happen, and there’s very little to nothing that can be done about it.
Against this apocalyptic grain, I still tend to think that things tend to work out more or less okay, if not for “the best.” I would, however, like it to be at least noted here that my confidence in liberal Judaism, like my commitment to Zionism is, indeed, “rational” insofar as it is falsifiable.