As Esther noted, at ROI120 we had a rollicking session led by McGill University History Professor Gil Troy. The discussion centered around issues of why be a Jew and what does being a Jew mean. The conversation that ensued was very reminiscent of conversations I’ve heard over and over again at inumerable GA’s, Federation meetings, Op Eds in the Jewish Press etc. Granted, it was interesting to hear the perspective of participants from India, Argentina, Israel and other countries – but as the conversation was in English, North American voices dominated.
And what did I hear? I heard the anguished voices of predominantly secular American Jews bemoaning their diminishing numbers. I heard resentment at the notion that religious Jewish ritual ought to have any significant role in Jewish identity. I heard people searching, searching for that magic solution to Jewish continuity that would allow their brand of Judaism to become vibrant and vital absent recourse to old time Religion. Our participants were Jewish young leadership material, but in certain respects, they were no different than their ossified organizational elders.
Man – I hope there’s going to be some evolution over the next couple of days … Don’t get me wrong though. Questions that need to be asked are being asked. Everyone here is earnest and sincere. But maybe next year we ought to dig deeper and find more unaffiliated Jews whose ideas and priorities have not been tinged by exposure to the powers that be. Maybe then we’ll have a fresher perspective.
Or maybe we ought to ask the Mormons. They always seem like they got it going on, all frontin’ their high fertility rates and their impossibly crisp white shirts.