I read Gary Rosenblatt’s piece, “On Being Michael Steinhardt” (Feb. 12), and found myself all riled up.
There was the name calling of the Jewish establishment and federations and the “marginally Jewish young people” — which was outrageously unfair and counterproductive. Then there was the idea that Birthright was the only program that was connecting young unaffiliated Jews to their heritage — which is simply untrue. Then there was Steinhardt’s claim that the Jewish world is devoid of introspection — which is nonsensical. (Was there ever any group of people who spent more time introspecting? To a fault!)
Then there was his statement that the achievements in philanthropy and vision of his generation of American Jews will be viewed as insignificant — which, by his actions alone, he proves false. However, the most painful aspect of the article was that something was missing: a deeper understanding of Jewish assimilation and the elements necessary to sustain a faith.
There is tremendous ambivalence among Jews about being Jewish. This ambivalence is explicable: Hatred and persecution of Jews goes back to biblical times. Is it any wonder some Jews want to be something else?
To believe that connecting a generation (or generations) of ambivalent Jews to Judaism through “culture” and heritage” alone is ill considered and ultimately, self-defeating. Cultures come and go. Traditions are forgotten. What will sustain Judaism is for Jews to remember what makes them Jewish and what it means to be Jewish.
Until Jews accept their covenantal partnership with the Creator and remember that it’s good to be a Jew, our future will remain uncertain. Free trips to Israel, alone, though wonderful and effective in a material way, will not remedy this uncertainty.