On desecration and rededication
Aid for Sudan

Toward Another Diaspora Manifesto

In the current issue of Sh'ma, which subtitles itself "an online journal of Jewish responsibility," there is an essay by Dr. Aryeh Cohen called "Seek the Welfare of the City to Which I Have Exiled You...": Toward Another Diaspora Manifesto. I found it via JewSchool. Here's the pullquote they chose:

And so here we are: probably the most learned, most affluent, most politically powerful Jewish community in the history of the world, and we are tied up in knots about who we are. The borders of accepted speech are assiduously patrolled by self-appointed guardians of the walls. (I have a file of hate mail, letter after letter of people comparing me to a kapo, and I am far from alone in this.) The public domain of our institutions and the popular Jewish press has been colonized by the most right wing element in our community. Israel is not a problem for me because my allies on the progressive left think it's a problem. Israel is a problem because it claims to speak for the Jewish community, and the Jews who speak for it confound and subvert the Judaism that I love and teach -- the Judaism that can contribute to creating a better and more just world.

(Read the whole essay here.) The Diaspora, Cohen seems to be saying, is not merely the ugly stepsister of "Real Judaism" as it exists in Israel; Diaspora Judaism is a legitimate, flourishing, many-voiced real Judaism in and of itself. (Hm. That argument sounds oddly familiar...)

One might expect that someone putting forth that assertion would be a fringe-y leftist like me. Well, he might be; but he's also  Chair of the Rabbinics Department at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism, which ordains Conservative rabbis. He's also President of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, which has the fantastic motto "To kvetch is human...to act, divine." (I wonder whether they sell bumper stickers? I would totally put that on my car.)

I'm  heartened by Cohen's essay, and even more heartened to hear this viewpoint coming from the chair of a department at a Conservative seminary. His essay appears as part of a quartet  entitled New Diaspora Identity; all are worth reading, but it's Cohen's "Toward Another Diaspora Manifesto" that resonates with me most.