Conference on Moses Mendelssohn, new book fuel debate on thorny issues of faith, identity.
Special To The Jewish Week
The case for a new, fuller understanding of what defines Judaism.
As any Jew knows, trying to define what it means to be Jewish is difficult, if not impossible. Yet still we try: over the past two decades, the number of American Jews who define themselves as secular has nearly doubled; in Israel, a country founded on secular and nationalistic notions of Judaism, the religious population has risen dramatically. Fifty-eight percent of Israeli Jews now consider themselves either traditional or religious, while just 42 percent say they’re secular.
In his usually precise and incisive way, critic Adam Kirsch tackles a thorny issue: should Christians read their Bible like Jews read theirs? The occasion is a new book--"The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book"--by Case Western religion professor Timothy Beal, who is also the child of evangelical parents.
My youngest son, who is a senior in the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School in Manhattan, is studying economics for the first time, and he’s finding it fascinating.
His teacher is introducing the basics of marketing, and the dynamics that drive the consumer market. Each student has been assigned to focus on a particular product, and assess how the advertising for that product has shaped the marketplace’s opinion of it, and, of course, sales.
While packing for a trip to Ghana eight years ago, numerous observant Jews dissuaded me, arguing I could not volunteer abroad and maintain full, authentic observance. I knew that I had multiple identities and this trip gave me no pause. Since then I have worked in ten countries learning that I can be an observant Jew and a global citizen.
Remember that Pew survey a few weeks back with the surprising conclusion that Americans, while claiming to be oh-so-religious, don't know very much about religion, and that the folks who seem to know the most are atheists?
That was the motion of a fascinating, highly charged debate last Wednesday night at NYUs Skirball Hall sponsored by Intelligence Squared, whose series of topical debates with experts in the field are always timely, lively and thought-provoking.