American Jewish Identity Rhetoric (PEW Research)


So rhetoric provides the key with which to “resist” intermarriage and stem the tide of Jewish assimilation into the American mainstream? That’s at least what I’m getting from Jack Wertheimer, online at Mosaic.

This little bit is emblematic: These families speak forthrightly to their children about the value of marrying Jews and of creating strongly committed Jewish homes, disdain the counsel of defeatism, and yearn for leaders who will champion instead of undermining their private efforts to inculcate an unshakable Jewish identification in their children and grandchildren. 

That’s what it takes: “speaking,” “yearning,” “promoting.” And if you keep going, there’s more: “hearing,” “confronting,” “[putting books into people’s homes]” (?), not “allowing couples to live in a state of denial,” (more) “speaking,” “unambiguous messages,”  “shifting onus,” “not permitting families to shirk primary responsibilities,” “communicating family lore.”

To stem the tide, Wertheimer promotes “engagement with Jewish rituals, trips to Jewish sites, investments in Jewish education, and the communication of family lore.” But what if there’s no architecture to these constructions apart from rhetoric? These structures need careful design. They don’t simply “speak” for themselves.

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.
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