Hope Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance



[H/t Congregation Beth Elohim]

This is happening at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn tomorrow night (7:30PM). I have not read the book but it sounds interesting and it is always a joy to hang with Rabbi Bachman. Maybe I will see you there?

From the website:

In Hope, Not Fear, internationally renowned philanthropist and community leader Edgar M. Bronfman proposes a new direction in Jewish life for the open societies of North America–a direction in which Judaism will not merely survive but will in fact flourish. Arguing that the Jewish future cannot be grounded in fear of anti-Semitism and intermarriage, Bronfman reexamines important texts and interviews Jewish leaders to identify a new course for revitalizing the faith and community.

Rabbi Bachman will moderate the discussion.

For more information about the book, please click here.

2 responses »

  1. “Arguing that the Jewish future cannot be grounded in fear of anti-Semitism and intermarriage”

    This is great – seriously great – but my word, he will have his work cut out. Even my rabbi, very progressive, told me at the time I found my first boyfriend, that mixed marriages would probably fail. Had I given this a moment’s credence I’d have been condemned to foresake the plentiful Italian, Caribbean, Irish, Polish, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and English boys of my neighbourhood and seek love and sexual fulfilment in the smallest of my town’s many pools – Jews. There were more Zoroastrians in my town than Jews. I decided at that time to discreetly bow out from Jewishness – it just seemed senselessly communalist to me because I didn’t believe in God. By the time I got to Manchester and then London, I felt very self-conscious about joining Jewish groups based on an accident of birth, and so I didn’t. Based on my own case I consider marrying out a potential strength to Jews. It’s like a kind of socio-cultural diaspora (I realise how sinister that might sound to a fascist).

    As for Jews avoiding defining themselves in relation to antisemitism, this is tricky. I only really started associating with Jews after antisemitism started to take hold in Britain. It was quite a surprise – I had thought I was an ex-Jew, and suddenly my life is filled with people who are Jewish. And there you have it – like it or not, antisemitism is one type of social glue. Dan Cohn Sherkbok wrote a book about this the other year called ‘The Paradox of Antisemitism’ (haven’t read this). I tend to think it’s for the rest of society to address this, to a greater extent than it is for Jews.

    Look forward to reading your write-up, if you do one.

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    The event was OK but I wanted more. I still plan on reading the book and am very interested in the questions they are addressing re: intermarriage, Jewish organizations, etc. I took some notes and will do a write up in the next few days. Been real busy lately.

    To your comments, the congregation where the event was held (Beth Elohim in Brooklyn) is open to intermarriage and things are changing in that direction in other reform synagogues in the U.S. I realize the Orthodox and Ultra Orthos will always be against intermarriage and I can live with that.

    Here is Bronfman:

    “At one time in my life, I thought that the high intermarriage rate was just awful. Then of course you start to think further, and, slowly, if you meet enough people who are thinking differently, like those I write about in my book, you begin to learn that this could be an opportunity; not the end of the world but maybe the beginning of a new path. We need to change the attitude and education of Jews. Instead of trying to force them to fall out of love with someone, let us try to help them fall in love with Judaism.”

    Bronfman criticizes Jewish organizations that devote an inordinate amount of time, energy and resources to combating antisemitism at the expense of promoting Jewish community life, broadly defined. He is a philanthropist and serves on a lot of boards so he has an insider’s perspective on how these organizations allocate their funds.

    Regarding the potential of antisemitism to pull Jews together and/or spark interest in Jewish identity and Jewish religion, I don’t think Bronfman is denying it. Nor would I.

    My own reconnection to Judaism, limited as it is, began with the increasing antisemitism and anti-Zionism I was seeing on the left after the terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001. As I began to challenge this antisemitism and anti-Zionism I developed a greater interest in Israel and Judaism. To make a long story short, I traveled to Israel, made some great friends, and developed a very intense connection with the Jewish people. The connection I feel with Jews and Israelis today is not based on fear (whether antisemitism or the conflict) it is based on a sense of shared history, identity and faith.

    Will check out “The Paradox of Antisemitism” when I have a chance. Thanks.

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