Fortunately, one need not embrace the dystopian views of Israel’s Education Minister, Rafi Peretz, to reject Michael Koplow’s utopian and almost delusional paean to America’s rapidly assimilating non-Orthodox Jewish community (“Education Minister Out Of Step With American Jews,” July 19).
Sadly, these Jews have not been “redefining their Judaism” as Koplow would have us believe; they’ve been shucking it off in an unending effort to just be loved and accepted by limousine liberals everywhere. American Jews do not pursue social justice as an “expression of their Jewish values,” which is why there is nothing uniquely Jewish about their pursuit.
Indeed, I would challenge Koplow to identify a single issue where American Jewish social progressives part ways with like-minded non-Jews. Koplow may laud “the intermarried [American Jewish] household where the children are raised Jewish and keep Jewish traditions” but the reality, as revealed by recent Pew reports and other fact-based studies, is that such households hardly exist. Instead, intermarried and assimilated families are mostly ignorant of Jewish history, language, religion and culture, and play almost no role in any aspect of organized Jewish life. In contrast, Israeli Jews, secular and religious, are communal, not tribal. They see themselves as part of a collective project that is larger than themselves — building a country that is like no other, while remaining in dialogue with their history and traditions. To them, Jewishness is membership in a permanent collective, which entails obligations to the collective, not just entitlement to benefits and self-evident “rights.”
Michael Koplow’s American Jewish “identity,” in contrast, is self-determined and defined, available when convenient and otherwise easily ignored or abandoned. Israeli Jews understand very well what Judaism is on this side of the ocean, and both by necessity and choice are on a different path.