Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Journeying’


On Jewish Peoplehood – The right word, the right concept?

July 27, 2008

In my spare time I endeavor to be a good student of Jewish communal issues – the language we use, the approaches we take and the ongoing combination of the two. Recently I have been considering the ongoing dialogue about Jewish peoplehood. Like other ‘buzz words’ before it, the term ‘peoplehood’ has taken on a life and dialogue all its own. In the few years those who are concerned with the future of the Jewish people have, at least in part, rallied around the exploration of what ‘peoplehood’ means in order to discern the paths forward for the Jewish people.

And I have recently been reading essays on ‘peoplehood’ from some of our global Jewish community’s finest thinkers. Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, Leonard Saxe, Rabbi David Gedzelman, Rabbi Joy Levitt, Dr. Alan Mintz, Professor Douglas Rushkoff, Rokhl Kafrissen, Ruth Ouzana and Yossef Israel Abramowitz each wrote thoughtful essays on peoplehood in the Spring edition of Contact, a publication of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. Before that, I read The Peoplehood Papers published by UJC that included thoughtful essays by Dr. Shlomi Revid, Dr. Misha Galperin, Jay Michaelson, Einat Wilf, Barbara Lerner Spectre, Ahava Zarembski, Alan D. Hoffman, Jonathan Ariel, Eric Levine, Wayne Firestone and Gil Troy. I have read countless books on the subject and topics ancillary to it. And I have tried thoughtfully struggle with the question of how one can best understand the Jewish experience and the opportunity embedded within that experience.

Now I am not classically trained in Jewish thought, history law, social services or education. Nor am I an academic or a Jewish communal professional. Everything I have leaned is the result of my (reluctant) congregational schooling as a child, my experiences as an adult learner (including my experience in the Wexner Heritage program) and as a constant reader. It is important that I share that information because what I am about to say needs to be put in the context of my limited knowledge – I am humbled by what I do not know – and therefore this statement is made in the most humble of ways.

I think we are getting it all wrong in the way we focus on ‘peoplehood’ as a centralizing term of the Jewish experience. Read the rest of this entry ?