Hello, I was reading in Haaretz
today about diversity in the Jewish Community, and would like to ask how close Messianic Jews are to the Jewish Community. I read a site called "The Messiah Conspiracy," suggesting that if Jesus' followers had restricted their fellowship to Jews, then they would have been accepted as a Jewish sect. I think Lubovich Hassidism, for example, is a big part of the Hassidic Community.Who is the 'we' that the Jewish community stands for?
By Jay Michaelson, The Forward
Peoplehood — the notion that we are all united purely by dint of being members of the Jewish people — does not have a geographic or ideological center. It does not have a particular end in mind, except more peoplehood and more continuity. And it has very little actual content. This, as I’ve explored in these pages, is both its great strength, as it unites everybody, and its potential great weakness, since it is low on direction and inspiration.
One of the values of peoplehood is inclusion: creating a Jewish community where participation is open to people of different generations, different nationalities, different levels of education and so forth. But if we want a community that stands for something — for example, support for the existence of the State of Israel — then we are by definition excluding those who do not share that value.
Of course, this principled conflict begs the question of who calls the shots — that is, who the “we” is. Who determines what the “Jewish community” stands for? We don’t actually take a vote of everyone who identifies as Jewish, right? In practice, we heavily weight the votes of those who affiliate more, organize more and, of course, write big checks. This, too, may be the right decision: Without those big checks, our Jewish institutions would not exist, and so it makes perfect sense to care more about what philanthropists think than about what some vaguely disaffected average Jew on the street thinks. But let’s be clear that this prioritization is also a de facto decision.
The point, however, is not that such decisions are right or wrong, entitled or not — only that they are diametrically opposed to the promotion of Jewish peoplehood.
Though this may seem obvious, it clearly isn’t, judging by the way this intra-communal conflict has played out on the ground. For example, I recently participated in a panel in the Bay Area called “Perspectives on Zionism.” In helping to assemble a diverse panel, I ran into problems.
In a way, the choice between inclusion of all Jewish people and shared communal values is a very old one. Long ago, our community leaders decided that Jewish Christians (and before them, Israelite pagans) did not have a place at the Jewish communal table. Since then, Jewish institutions have banned rationalist philosophers, nationalist zealots, messianists, communists, proselytizers and heretics. As long as there have been synagogues, there have been doors and locks put on them. And, of course, there have always been donor walls, too.
But there are new elements, as well. There is indeed a shifting of climate within and beyond the Jewish world. Outside, once radical views are now commonplace.
And inside the Jewish community, we’ve seen both the rise of moderate groups such as J Street and a hardening of conservative positions among the Jewish “establishment.” This has led to some curious results: As my colleague J.J. Goldberg wrote recently, to express critical views openly in America might get you fired. So there is much that is old, and much that is new, in our historical moment.