My Jewish Friends, My Christian Friends (Parochials and Lonely Knights of Faith)

Synagoga and Ecclesia at Notre-Dame de Paris

(Synagoga and Ecclesia at Notre-Dame de Paris)

I wasn’t going to post this, but maybe I will, but please take it with a grain of salt because I don’t mean a word of it,  not really. It’s just being back from the Association of Jewish Studies conference and I find myself unable to not say it. All of us Jewish Studies academics are a bunch of provincials. On Facebook, it’s Israel-all-the-time, and making points about the most-rightwing-government-in-the-history-of –of-the-country, before the election of the-next-most-rightwing-government-in-the-history-of-the-country.  In philosophy it’s ethics and love, and Levinas and Rosenzweig, all the time. On the other hand, I will say this, that the sense of historical time that mires the study of Judaism makes the discipline less presentist than, let’s say the American Academy of Religion. At their best, the thick lens onto the past lends Jewish Studies and Jewish philosophy a kind of prismatic quality. But mostly, I like the clannishness. Go to the AJS conference long enough, and everybody knows everybody, and you bump into them everywhere. There’s lots of re-cognition. In the 1920s, Siegfried Kracauer presented the Hotel Lobby as a place of anonymous anomie. Obviously, he never hung out at the ASJ in Chicago (!) in December (!!).

Consider in contrast my [Christian] friends and colleagues who do “theory” in university Religion Studies. They are more on the cusp of things, more theoretical superseded than my Jewish friends and colleagues. But I think they are lonely. They are liberal-progressive. You’d think they are post-Christian, and that’s what they often say, but I’m not believing that for a minute. Even the most avowedly anti-Christians (you know who you are) are stuck in the religion they want so much to disavow. They just don’t know what to do with it, with their Christianness. Even the fact that “Christianness” isn’t a real word, not like “Jewishness,” is not incidental. My bet is that they have no place to come together. My Jewish friends and colleagues buck up against a home-place that we all find too narrow, but, on the other hand, even my friend NL sounds happy to be back in Israel for winter break. Something about humus and coffee. Maybe my Christian friends, the ones who really want it, need to establish a new denomination.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to My Jewish Friends, My Christian Friends (Parochials and Lonely Knights of Faith)

  1. efmooney says:

    Zak,
    I can’t speak for the sense of community found in meetings of the AJS but I know what you mean without having experienced it directly over the decades. In the past few years I’ve found a rather exciting phenomena In Israel — a very sympathetic reception of Kierkegaard. It’s (as I see it, though I’m still figuring it out) a sense of Israeli philosopher-religious studies folks that The knight of faith in SK can be Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Pagan — and that SK gives an associative field of themes and concepts that makes that insight expandable, fruitful, and homey. I know exactly what they mean, for my first papers from decades ago had the Nietzsche/Kierkegaard overlap in mind, and my most recent books have the Kierkegaard/Socrates overlap in mind. All that can be spelled out without even a nod to the vanguardism of religion beyond religion, post-secularist, post-theistic theism, anti-liberal Gandhi=Hitler nonsense, political theology, stuff — all vying for the front of the parade — as Harold Rosenberg said, the tradition of the new and always left-er than you (or something like that).
    I wouldn’t look for a new denomination. SK was anti-Christendom and anti-denominationism. My Jewish colleagues are fascinated by SK’s claims that “God does not exist” and “Socrates has become a Christian” and what all that could mean. Because I am too, I have a following there (surprise surprise).
    You hesitated to post your post, but I’ll glad as hell you did.
    e.

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