Synagogue (Bunker Judaism or Aesthetic Judaism?)

synagogue art

The PEW Report on American Jewish identity is already going to generate lots of anxiety about the Jewish future, while putting the wrong kind of pressure on the synagogue. Combine that anxiety about assimilation with anxiety about Israel and what you get is the Bunker Judaism that nobody wants and can secure nothing. Once upon a time, a Jewish thinker like Joseph Soloveitchik, writing on the postwar scene, could describe Jewish community in terms of “fate” and “destiny.” Both terms are too grandiose. Jewish community today is intentional in structure. So what’s the synagogue good for? Perhaps a little mental spectacle, something to look at, something to think, something to read, something to feel, something to want, a spiritual connection, a social connection, a moral articulation, a little shock here and there to the normal order of things, something decent to eat at kiddush. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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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