(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 They are more on the cusp of things, more theoretical superseded than my Jewish friends and colleagues.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.