"Most participants agreed that the challenge of Judaism today is to survive in a world where individuals are free to choose their own identities."
If such freedom is a threat to Judaism, what does that say about Judaism? [Jeff Blankfort]
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
By Amiram Barkat
The multiplicity of identities in the post-modern era is the greatest threat facing the Jewish people, according to a group of about 20 Jewish leaders from Israel and the Diaspora.
At the end of a "brainstorming session" held at the Wye Plantation near Washington, D.C., the participants decided that the Jewish identity crisis is a more significant threat than assimilation, demography, anti-Semitism or radical Islam.
Those who attended the gathering, the final stage of a project entitled "Alternate Futures for the Jewish People," recommended Jewish education and the removal of obstacles that prevent many potential converts from joining the Jewish people.
The brainstorming session was organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an independent think tank set up by the Jewish Agency that studies issues related to the Jewish people. Dennis Ross, the former Mideast coordinator, heads the think tank.
Participants included attorney Alan Dershowitz; former deputy secretary of the U.S. treasury Stuart Eizenstat; Natan Sharansky, former minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs; Rabbi Samuel Sirat; the former chief rabbi of France; Michael Steinhardt, one of the leading Jewish philanthropists in the U.S.; Prof. Jehuda Reinharz, president of Brandeis University and Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the hesder yeshiva in Petah Tikva, which combines military service with Torah study.
Most participants agreed that the challenge of Judaism today is to survive in a world where individuals are free to choose their own identities. They came to the conclusion that there is a lack of spiritual leadership that can imbue a Jewish identity with content that is relevant for most Jews, including the non-Orthodox and the young.
The group praised the Orthodox denomination for high birth rates and low intermarriage rates.