The future of; 18; The Future of Judaism
From WMUR FM in Washington D.C. the future of another in a series of discussions of alternative futures. Your moderator is Joe coach of the world future society. Mr. Coates the subject with this evening's discussion is the future of Judaism. We have with us Rabbi Joshua Haberman the senior rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation. The point has been made in numerous context and in numerous ways that the problem facing Judaism in America today is whether it can survive the challenge of abundance and the opportunity that America offers a few years ago for example. One author wrote a book entitled The children of the gilded ghetto. A Princeton professor made the observation that the central issue facing Judaism is whether a long beleaguered faith could endure the conclusion of its perilous siege. Rabbi Habermann is that the problem facing Judaism. Well in my opinion Judaism as a religion
has shown a great deal of durability. We have been vocal in this world for nearly 4000 years and perhaps one of the keys to the understanding of this amazing ability is the fact that Judaism is much more than a really good it is the culture of the people. It is the diary you might say the Spiritual Diary of a people in quest for meaning and death. There are so many dimensions of the Jewish experience of the applicable to this age to this society or to any other society or to the future. I recall perhaps 15 or 16 years ago an article in The Journal of Jewish social studies in which the question was asked in a survey of Jews why you would you. And it seemed to me that there were a half dozen answers ranging from an adherence to the traditional 30 to such notions as a reluctance to abandon the ship when it was under
under siege so to speak. And I think this raises the question challenging the point you make in the contemporary world is Judaism a viable institution or is it so to speak as the dodo. Well I I don't ask myself why am I a Jew. No more than I would ask myself why I am. Why am I a male instead of a female. I think that normal healthy people are self accepting and I generally brought up to feel that whatever they are it is a privilege to be raised in the Jewish faith by self accepting parents who brought me up with the feeling when Still to me the feeling that it was a privilege to be part of this tradition. Now I don't think we are dead. I think that there are some individual Jews who may have drifted away from their heritage but by and large there is no erosion there's no decline of the Jewish
vitality or for that matter even though Merrick Lee of Jewish membership and participation in the community readiness of Jews to identify themselves as Jews to participate in in the community to support and help one another to gather together for purposes of a cultural educational of philanthropic reason. These evidences are very strong and I see the Jewish people very vital. In fact I in my own opinion the need for a kind of culture that Judaism has preserved is greater now in this urbanized society than ever before I see the girl ahead be the challenges often made that even goes beyond Judaism that religion itself is irrelevant in this world that it's essentially an institution that has perhaps a glorious past a very limited future. Oh Under no circumstances would I agree with that. I think that the human condition has
remained essentially the same. We are mortal. We are weak we are dependent and we wonder what do we do in this vast enormous world what's the meaning of human existence we seem to be a speck of dust in the vast cosmos. Can there be any purpose to our being. And of course religion deals with these deep profound abiding questions of human beings no matter what their background Judaism of course has a great reservoir great Dep. advances. But aside from a valid point that I meet now in general I think there's a specific urgency for the help and orientation that religion can give just a few months ago in fact in October I saw an article in The New York Times and titled religion still has tenure and it suggests that far from being dead the religious quest of the American campus today is more alive than ever. In fact students today look for
different exotic cults Oriental calls they seem to be drawn to the mystique to the cult as well to astrology and forms of. Of religious behavior that seem to have been almost forgotten and yet now it's a revival and you would argue in this case that but something which is intrinsic to human behavior the search who're if you will a higher order or higher meaning. And so long as there is that surge there will be that surge so long as people are people. Oh definitely For example I might quote a sociologist Clifford Goetz who said religion ensures the interpretability of the cosmos. In this age of science as when we see the world now in a different perspective in a new dimension the space age there is need to see meaning in this world as well. And religion is our faith such as is communicated to us by religion. It is
assurance that not all is total chaos that there is some kind of intelligibility to it. And the more science we have the more we rely upon the intelligibility of the universe as God is the guaranteed of an orderly purposeful intelligible universe. Let's assume for the moment that this adequately reflects the nature of man and the need for an interpretation that goes beyond if you will. Science and Technology. Against that background what does Judaism have to offer so to speak ensures its place. Well one of the great advantages of Judaism is the fact that Judaism is unburdened by dogmatism in theology for sure. Judaism is very demanding in ethical behavior. It has a you might say an almost rigid moral code but it is wide open theologically intellectually speaking. There has never been a
frozen creed binding upon Jews. And so with this wide open attitude toward the profound philosophical and theological questions with a great deal of leeway for the individual Jew to decide for himself on the basis of such reading or study as he may make what the answers might be to such questions as for example is there a soul. Is there immortality. What might the hereafter be. What form does retribution take. Is there such a thing as as you might say. A reunion. So now these are the profound Misty questions on least Judaism offers intriguing fascinating answers but they differ one from the other. Each Jew is entitled to put forward his own theory and what is binding is only the central affirmation that there is a God and that this God is unique. One cannot be
compared. Therefore it is undefinable which I presume Rabbi Habermann also believes that discussion wide open since he is undefinable. Presumably one need not spend much time attempting to define him. Well you can spend time but it also means that you are free to give your imagination or your own conscience or your own thoughtful expression. If God is undefinable that means that no one no one human mind can give the attributes of God or that any attempt by the human mind to in Kompas God is from the very beginning doomed to failure or will be incomplete and therefore we can participate in the quest for God. God can be. You might say. A matter of experience. In the sense that we can be sure of God's presence but not of his qualities or attributes.
One often thinks of Jews as people locked to a tradition. One even finds in our big cities today Jews dressed as presumably they did in the 17th or 18th century. Is this kind of a tighter tradition than not related to fundamental religious or philosophical believe. A good Jew would consider himself observant and and pious if he allowed his life to be governed by the principles of Jewish ethics and tradition. But he would not expect his tradition to govern his thinking on the metaphysical questions. Here he is accustomed to always Ra's by freedom of thought and therefore even a 17th 18th century Jewish mind would still be an open mind in terms of the metaphysical or theological
questions we have been talking about. Well let's turn into more directly to the point that you're making I presume. I presume the point is that there's a flexibility in Judaism which in some special way allows it to. Maintain its status as a religion on the one hand and yet in a special way accommodate to the pressures of the modern world. Could you elaborate a bit more on this where were all the strength so to speak in Judaism. In addition to this freedom from dog went to the door and encouraging that it can accommodate the modern world. Well I don't think I need to prove that it can. It actually is accommodating itself to the modern world in fact many Jews as you might know very prominent in every branch of science and we are sailing with the modern age not against its dream certainly not the in its expanding view of the world and its affirmation of science as a benefactor of mankind. The tradition of learning in Judaism for
example makes Judaism always contemporary. The high regard for learning is the hallmarks of the Jewish tradition. But I would say that one of the great assets of Judaism is that it has never lost its ethnic character. We represent not only a religion in the sense of denominational tradition or common forms of worship but we represent the people very conscious of a common history. And there is a complete texture of social relationships in crime you know agencies which tie which tie Jews to Jews. Now this sense of strong community I think is very much needed by modern alienated human beings in urban society. Does it follow from what you're saying that young Jews are to discernible degree less alienated than young non-Jews.
Let's say in the United States it does if I may point point out a few examples yes. Imagine let us say a young Jew travels from New York to San Francisco doesn't know ourselves well he isn't lost. He finds immediately and address the Jewish community center the synagogues they finds a number of activities sponsored by Jewish organizations. And there's a particularly warm welcome that he may anticipate by his fellow Jews. He's not a complete stranger. He shares with them so many experiences. Through common efforts in the East and in the south in the west wherever there are Jews gathering together there is a certain common bond than a certain similarity in their community life and he recognizes that he's accepted very readily. It's easy for the Jew to fit into another Jewish community. And in a sense you might say the Jewish community adopts its children its individuals and takes responsibility for them and creates a setting in
which one can be at home the community feeling also goes to a more immediate level not isn't a family an even more central institution in Jewish life. Yes I think that the intensity and warmth of the Jewish community is a reflection of the family. But we must admit that the family bonds have weakened and therefore I say all the more. Is it likely that the commune organizations that the city guards with there. With their fringe benefits their social activities and the cultural and educational activities that those synagogues will be in loco parentis in place of parents that young people traveling in they are highly mobile people move from place to place. And this is something that we can verify so many of our new members are young people who have who have simply moved into the city and attached themselves to the synagogue because frankly they want not only where ship facilities and
really just education for the children they want a setting in which to make new friends. We get to make contacts in this connection might be interesting to note that in a in a survey in 1965 it's reported that something like 25 percent of Jews compared to 40 percent of Protestants or 71 percent of Catholics made some weekly attendance at church or synagogue. This would seem at least on face value to run counter to what you're saying. It just proves to you how fallacious statistics are. If the survey had also been Age of how many times the Jewish mother comes to the synagogue to attend a sisterhood meeting or. Some other study group or workshop or or. How many times she stepped into the synagogue to buy it kind of come in Nora in the Judaica shop or some bar mitzvah gift. How many times she attended a bomb it's for lunch no wedding dinner. It would add up to a very
considerable number of contacts with John not distinctly worship experiences but relatively important in creating the sense of community in fortifying the ethical and social standards which tie the Jewish community together. Let's do well a bit longer on this community notion from the point of view whether it's totally unmixed blessing presumably one of the larger goals of American society is an integration of all people sensually and equality of all men in there. In their interactions with other men. Doesn't that in some sense encounter a contradiction. If one sees a strength in Judaism or in any other ethnic minority if one sees a strength in a self identification and a strong cohesiveness the development of community doesn't that work counter to the larger American goal.
Well if by quality end I subscribe to this all the way. Equal opportunity and equality of status. If by that you also mean uniformity then I reject that because my liberal vision of a future America in which its citizens enjoy equality also makes room for diversity for the right to be distinctive. And nothing is more deeply established and rooted in the American tradition than the right to religious diversity. The American has always recognized the right and the privilege of each person to exercise his own distinctive religious patterns life style. And so this country more than any other has preserved really just distinctiveness we have I believe some three hundred different really just sects in this country and some rather exotic and we respect that. Federal law has been making more and more allowances for such groups which in some respects have extreme traditions such as Jehovah Witnesses in
Christian Science in the Mennonites. Each in some particular way dissent very sharply from prevailing majority practice. And I think Jews have it in that with all the stress upon their distinctiveness have nevertheless integrated themselves very well in the general texture of American life. Rabbi Habermann you may recall a few years ago a book called Super Americans and you may recall that the subject of the super Americans were were Texans and I often wondered whether perhaps the substance was and misapplied to the title Jews in America seem to be so successful in virtually every sense in every field. Economically in science and tech in technology and business and so forth leaders in the academic world in the civil liberties front they seem to be at the forefront of reinforcing the Constitution and making it a living instrument.
One wonders whether in some sense Judaism in America isn't the very embodiment of the American ideals rather than just if you will another successful group. Well Jews have been very much at home in this country and essentially most grateful for what this country has offered in freedom an opportunity I would not exaggerate the extent of Jewish influence at this moment. If that is what you seem to suggest in American life we are after all still a minority of only about six million people. There are other religious groups far larger numbers but I must say that that by and large the American Jewish community is a happy one and a contented one. The point was not the one which unfortunately you picked up but rather as Jews become. So totally Americanised as
they become so much the embodiment if you will of the American ideal. Doesn't this create if you will an implicit wearing away and implicit deterioration of what is specifically and uniquely Jewish. It could be I think that there will be at least on the margins of Jewish community consciousness there will be a number of people and there will always be in every mixed society marginal people who don't want to belong entirely to their own group who are attracted to other groups particularly to the majority group. I think that there will be a growing rate of social integration perhaps even a somewhat slightly growing rate of intermarriage and some drifting away from. Central involvement in the Jewish community but it will also go the other way. We think that there will be a movement back toward the ethnic centers of Jewish life.
My own feeling is that that the love and you might say complete integration of the American Jew in this country has so far not alienated him from his own. Moreover I think that there is the counterweight of the state of Israel with which American Jews have identified to a remarkable degree. Now you have just gotten to the emotionally somehow taken profound interest and financially supported the state of Israel I think that that will extend to wait for some time to come a sense of distinctiveness How do you counter weight here than is the counter weight to factors which would blend Jews into America. Israel is something which is something to focus on Judaism as a living thing.
Israel will remind Jews that they have a historical tradition that they belong to a people which goes beyond the borders of this nation that there are ties of loyalty which do not conflict but parallel and. Co-exist with the loyalties Jews have taught this country has national citizens. Rabbi I hear women in your observation. Most American Jews see Israel as some eschatological who'll Tilman as in some sense being the embodiment of a religious message. Or is Israel just a country where Jews happen to be forming a nation. I think that any one answer would be incomplete I think that there are all kinds of Jews with different religious expectations and I think that the views of American Jews toward Israel differ. There are some Jews particularly the very orthodox who look upon Israel as another step in the fulfillment of the messianic hope as the precondition of the
messianic age. Similar perhaps to those fundamentalist Christians who look for the second coming and welcome the reestablishment of the state of Israel as the return of the Jews to the Holy Land a condition which was always expected would have to precede the second coming. Now then the majority of Jews in my opinion look toward Israel with with pride. Identify with its achievements with its valor and many of us see it from the moral perspective has the opportunity to create a more just imperfect society a kind of model a pilot planned among the various social organisms in which Judaism will be put to the social test. Whether or not it can create a society that was markedly different and perhaps be an improvement upon anything the Western world has yet seen in what in fact were in aspiration. Does Israel achieve justice or is this justice
manifest. Well I would suggest go there and take a look and see for yourself. Having been over there for 5 times having lived there for at least a year in which I studied the country intensively. I see. Surely in the creation of the kibbutz the collective the community which is its not just a community a community it has a great idealism at its base. I see in the creation of the kibbutz the modern collective which allocates to each of its members. Tasks compatible with their capacities and rewards them on an equal basis with the fruit of the labor of the entire group shared equitably. I think that there is a the closest approximation to the ideal society that we can find anywhere in the world today. I think that the state of Israel as a as a state has practiced the ideals of
social consciousness and social conscience in the remarkable way even in the treatment of the non-Jews in Israel in times of war. We see evidence of a very sensitive social conscience and I look forward to the future. I think that great light will come forth from that tiny little land. Do you see at this point any specific if you will political or institutional lessons from Israel or the United States. Are there things that are going on there which could be incorporated in our own society. Yes in the in the integration of its minorities for example Israel has absorbed it. More immigrants who came penniless and you might say many of them are culturally very inferior. A good many of its immigrants came from backward areas of North Africa. With high levels of illiteracy
unskilled depended now. I think in the area of social welfare Israel has much to teach the whole world. These immigrants were dealt with and treated each as though he were the most precious thing in in the world. The expenditure of Israel both in resources in money and in care for the deprived and under privilege for the stranger and for the alien is remarkable. I think that Israel has also achieved something which we in the western world are seeking to accomplish. It has held on to the loyalty of its youth. It has. It has to a far lesser degree this present evil of the generation gap. It has not lost the affection of its young people.
I think the ideals of national service have found expression in the Israel to a remarkable extent but to what extent is that due to the fact that Israel was not only under external pressures but also as a nation which is literally in a struggle with the environment. So the comparison may not be a fair one compared with what Israel may be like in 30 years. The point you make is well taken the necessity of survival is very much involved. The pressure from the outside ring then as Israel is by hostile nations has compelled its people to living in close unity and to depend upon one another more so and has demanded great sacrifices from from its youth. But at the very beginning Israel started as an idealistic vision men and women who first came to Israel abandon secure living conditions and exposed themselves to hard obal.
Conditions of deprivation turned from the book to the plough from comfort to great discomfort drained to swamps and reforest that barren hills and tried to create a rather fruitful gotten out of a desolate land. Now these men and women who first came have given the country I think something very powerful. The great ideal and it's there. Well thank you Rabbi Rabbi Habermann for this very bright anticipation of the future of Judaism in America and in the world. This is Geo codes for the world future society. Those of you who are interested in learning more about the society may write to me in care of the station or to the world future society. Post Office Box 1 9 2 8 5 Twentieth Street Station Washington D.C. You've been listening to the Future off of another in a series of discussions of alternative futures with Joe coats of the world future
society. The preceding program originated from the studios of WMUR found American University Radio Washington D.C.. This is the national educational radio network.
- The future of
- Episode Number
- The Future of Judaism
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- No description available
- Social Issues
- Media type
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-7-18 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “The future of; 18; The Future of Judaism,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-d50fzt1k.
- MLA: “The future of; 18; The Future of Judaism.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-d50fzt1k>.
- APA: The future of; 18; The Future of Judaism. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-d50fzt1k