Your comment here... + 
This is so for my life, YSHWH [once I called him rnJ-sus] In quiet time with the set apart day[s] calledrn Shabbat - [now I can faithfully state He redeemedrnme... and daily I am eager to be with Him].rnHe truly and ultimately worked out my defiling nature rnwhich I was reared in, Christianity.rn Many people are asking if I am a Jew, or Judaic...rnrnI pondered for some time in 2002, because of rnChristianity in falsehood, to know my Maker rnand stop the insanity within. So much in disarray rnby the prince of darkness that I long to expound rnwith you in Israel but until then across the miles. rnrnReligion isn\'t a requirement, only seeking His presencernand being willing to be changed/humbled, a contrite and rnlowly mind. Please share as we grow thereby His fruition ofrneverlasting life in Him and spread the Light to others!rnShalom to you and thanks from Wisconsin,rnhoping we meet someday soon! EH: + 
Your comment here... + 
To the Karaite would he not answer that modern Jewish religion has assimilated the practices of the world around him and ignored Torah alone? If by saying that Judah in Israel alone now is all that is to come, then where is the words of the prophets before us? Is not Israel 12 tribes? Did we who have just become aware of our Hebrew blood line and roots just ignore the assimilation that has come in our minds and in our thoughts as gifts from Ha Shem Almighty? Even the Brit Hadasha says \"Salvation is of the Jews\". Now the words of the prophets foretold that this time would happen and that all the earth would seek after the Jews \"Zec_8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.\" Now if you said to me in 1967 when I first became a follower of Messiah by the name Jesus, that I would become a Jew and keep Passover, Sabbath, and later find that my family was not just a line of people from Wales and Ireland,I would have thought you were crazy. But as a boy of 8 I began listening to music like Asa Yolson better known as Al Jolson. And as I grew up I found myself dating Jewish women, singing Hebrew songs, and saying the Shema. I was raise a Christian and for some strange reason unknown until recently, I was not just drawn toward Jewish things, but obsessed. In fact, my Christian family said that I was Crazy to think we were Jewish. Yet some spiritual drawing kept me on a path toward a Hebrew perspective and the Messianic Faith. When I was a child I asked the Christian Pastor a simple question which he could not answer, \"What is God\'s name\". That is where it all began. Now to become more Jewish when you have no proof that you are is not a light and easy thing for a Goy, who appears to all to be gentile, but deep inside knows he is a Jew. S DM: + 
Your comment here... + 
It makes sense but does not make it right. One should seek for truth at home before seeking truth in a foreign land. JF: + 
Your comment here... + 
I was raised and educated Reform--I was taught that the Torah wasn't divine, that there was no 'Temple', I didn't even know what shabbat was-- yet I thought I knew what Judaism was, and didn't like it. It makes sense to assimilate and search in other spirituality if that's what you're taught. MM:  + 
Jews are meant to raise up the sparks--thus so many Jews discovering Yoga or Buddhism or American Indian spirituality or the extremes of secularism and atheism, or even psychology and self-help paths, and becoming leaders in all those paths.... GR: + 
Your comment here... + 
US Reform leaders of the 1800s: 80-95% of their descendants aren't Jewish.
Intermarriage in America is over 50%-- and higher among Reform and unaffiliated. YC: + 
Jews in America have exercised the rights and opportunity to take roles in civil society, invest themselves in institutions, be empowered, and succeed in almost every field-- law, science, finance, academia, etc. JW: + 
See Heshy Fried's take on American Orthodox Jews going 'off the derech' MM:  + 
Your comment here... + 
This is the logo for the New Jerusalem Talmud site. 
		  The New Jerusalem Talmud site is an innovative approach
		  to discourse about important issues. Examples are Population Control,
		  Abortion, Iran, Evolution, Economics, Meat Money. If you are interested in 
		  joining the discussion register and have your say.  
Assimilation

Bookmark and Share   Click here to register for the newjerusalemtalmud.com site.

  This is the logo for the New Jerusalem Talmud. More SEO info
		  should be included in this tag.
Secular, Unaffiliated, 'Spiritual', Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Renewal, modern- or ultra-OrthodoxJuBus (Jewish Buddhists-> Jews are a majority of US Buddhist leadership) MM: + 
American exceptionalism from its Revolution: First conscious creation of a nation and its institutions, by well-read political philosophers, to encourage buy-in to a specifically American individualism and rights/ ideals, not cultural/tribal identity. Foundation for a new type of civilization: Broke down ethnic/ religious/ tribal boundaries that persisted elsewhere. Worked for/ on [welcomed] Jews who have come to America. JW: + 
Kashrut and business do not mix. BZ: + 
One point of no return is intermarriage, especially halachically.  MM: + 
It's a western notion that every snowflake is precious. But I don't know if I agree that there's value in preserving every unique thing simply because it exists. SL: + 
Yet the West spent centuries eradicating other cultures, deliberately and accidentally.  Still does. The only difference now is that some in the West feel guilty about that. JW: + 
Your comment here... + 
So few of us- .014% of world population? That we always fear slipping away into the darkness, being swallowed up, if we're individuals, not together.  Judaism is a community-based thing. SL: + 
A man can join the non-Jewish world and do business and go to dinner... but there's a point beyond which the mashmaut [meaning, essence] of his Jewishness is diluted, identity lost. MS: + 
There are some other cultures that I don't identify with, that I don't know much about or understand, yet if they were to disappear and be absorbed by some pervasive world-wide superculture, then I think that would be a tragedy. Certainly that does happen and just as I am not a member of an endangered species I care about endangered species. We can apply this to sub-communities of Jews also- Ladino, Yiddish, Yemenite, etc. RB: + 
Your comment here... + 
Contributors:
EH:Erin Hunter, DM:Daniel Merrick, MA:Marco Aventajado, BT:BEN TRIPP, JF:Jason Farber
How much of non-Jewish culture/ values/ places can be taken on before essential Jewish identity is lost? What & where makes Jews Jewish? Who decides? Why does it matter?
Add a comment to the disscussion... + 

[Playing devil's advocate] What's wrong with assimilation? Isn't that one way Jews should be influencing the world? By joining and participating in and being a part of the general culture? RB: + 
Assimilation vs. acculturation: integrating while maintaining own identity- or disappearing into larger culture SK: + 
Jewish people's identity began, formed, crystallized in exile. SS: + 
Internalized Anti-Semitism: often a part of assimilating is that Jews become our own worst enemies-- MM: + 
It seems the underlying question is, are we fulfilling some unique purpose, and especially now? At one point we were the first people to proclaim there is One God, and fight idol worship, and now most people in the world believe that, and no more idols... If everybody decided to assimilate-- what would be lost? Does it really matter to the world--because, aren't the values that we came here to proclaim, aren't they already part of the world and will continue even if we don't? RB: + 
There is a conviction, an impulse within Judaism towards assimilation as the most revolutionary radical maneuver in the mission of Jewry. The assimilating Jew is somehow the vanguard-- of every truly radical change in the world.  SK: + 
Getting rid of the ghetto or exile mentality-- whether by assimilating or Aliyah? SS: + 
The Rambam as paradigm: greatest doctor, integrated Greek wisdom, worked with highest leaders of other nations, yet there was never any doubt of Jews and Jewish values being paramount for him. MS: + 
From our first break with idol-worshippers who lived in timeless eternal cycles, to rejecting Greek or Roman or other values and ways, we proudly founded our identity on differentiating our identity from other nations-- by giving meaning to suffering; by saying history happens, and for a reason; by insisting on the existence of an absolute morality... JW: + 
Your comment here... + 
Jews in America basically live without fear of bodily harm, unlike almost every other exile we've been in. JW: + 
We as Jews have Powerful Souls.A powerful TORAH Guidebook that Most of the world believes is DIVINE..And the more you delve into our Written and Oral Torahs ..The richer and more complete we become..So make your own conclusion..But FIRST do yourself and your Jewish Brother and Sisters a favor and dig in !! BT: + 
The Hebrew nation was created in Egypt, the Jewish identity was created in Babylon and Persia. Rabbinical Judaism matured after the Roman expulsion. The writers of the Babylonian Talmud claimed to be more legitimate than the [Israel-based] Jerusalem Talmud on precisely the grounds that they were more careful in exile! About consistently & correctly passing down traditions. SS: + 
WHILE I AGREE THAT ALMIGHTY CREATOR HAD INrnMIND A SPECIFIC PEOPLE TO CALL HIS OWN, rnSCRIPTURE PROCLAIMS TO ALL THAT ASSIMILATION rnWAS INDEED COMMANDED AGAINST rn[HE KNEW/KNOWS EVERYTHING, rnBOTH FUNCTIONAL AND NONFUNCTIONAL] SO rnHIS PEOPLE WOULD STAY IN OBEDIENCE TO HIM, rnAND NOT BE SNARED BY THE HIDDEN AGENDA rnOF SATAN\'S CUNNINGNESS/TRICKERY.rnrnIN STUDY TIME WITH HIM GREAT CONVICTION HAS AWAKENED MY MIND TO BE IN MEDITATION FORrnFURTHER LEARNING, HENCE, WISDOM COMES rnDOWN FROM HIS KINGDOM. I BEGAN BY EXAMININGrnMYSELF AND THE CULTURE I\'VE BEEN REARED rnIN [USA] AND HIS WORD[S] PROMPTED ME TO SEEK WISDOMrnIN SOLITUDE TIME. THIS BROUGHT ME TO rnUNDERSTAND THAT MANY FALSE TRADITIONS [POLITICAL, RELIGIOUS, ETC] HAVE WE ALL BEEN TAUGHT BY rnTHE LIES OF THE RULER OF PRINCIPALITIES.rnI AM SO THANKFUL TO HAVE FOUND YOUR rnWEBSITE AS I DESIRE TO KNOW, GROW AND BE A rnPART OF AND WITH YHWH\'S PEOPLE. SHALOMrnAND A JOYOUS HEART I SEND ACROSS THE MILES.rnI PRAY ONE DAY I AM PERMITTED TO COME ANDrnLIVE IN HIS PLACE WITH YOU ALL. UNTIL THEN I\'M rnPRAYING FOR THE SHALOM OF YERUSHALAYIM! EH: + 
Your comment here... + 
Tern KG: + 
Jewish life in other past societies as minorities--Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Islam, Christiendom, etc. assimilated differently (or not at all) compared to America today. SK: + 
Israel (land/ state)
Zionism (secular / religious)
Aliyah (official or physical)
MM: + 
Assimilation should be avoided if it means that a Jew will lose his connection to Torah and G-D forbid Hashem. However, a Jew should use what he learns from exile to further the plight of the Jewish people. If he can use his Torah knowledge to uplift secular views, ideologies and philosophies then he is bringing the world closer to Hashem and his wisdom. JF: + 
Your comment here... + 

How to Read and Use The New Jerusalem Talmud

New Jerusalem Talmud pages are organized/ laid out as 'Dafs', or pages in a unique format guided by the structure of the ancient Jewish Talmud.

  • The middle column at the top starts with a list of the participants/ contributors ('Tanaim').
  • Then, near the top of the middle column in the biggest font, is the "Mishnah": a concise statement of the issue, problem, or controversy.
  • Below that is the "Gemara" or main discussion: distilled, brief phrases encapsulating the most outstanding points and central flow of the discussion.
    • This is not a simple article, summary, or standard text debate; rather, it is something that is probably new to you. The phrases have been chosen, through a lengthy editorial process, to be the essential bones of a deeper exploration of the issue. They require 'learning' rather than just reading: an engaged, often difficult, and ideally partnered ('hevruta') approach: two people sit with the 'daf' in front of them and attempt to understand why each piece was included, and to respond and reflect what they read. The discussion as printed is designed to be incomplete: it requires your participation, through this process of 'learning', to be fully fleshed out, hopefully in a way which provokes you as ''talmidim" to bring your own insights and depth to the issue.
  • To each side are columns- the second and fourth columns- in a slightly smaller font than the middle column.
    • These are 'Rashis' or background/ support/ documentation/ context.
    • They are loosely thematic, filled with the most salient side points, data, or well-established positions relating to the central topic.
    • There are often links to sources on the different sides or perspectives.
    • These can be essential to the discussion, yet are usually not 'chidushim' (original to this debate):
      • rather they are things-you-should-know to really grasp the full contextuality of the main discussion.
  • On the far right and far left are smaller columns with smaller font.
  • These are the 'tosefot' or tangents:
    • interesting and relevant side points,
    • directions for further exploration,
    • anecdotes,
    • and sources or noted thinkers or scholars whose work touches upon the main issue.
  • Once you have registered and logged in, you can join the discussion!
    • Click on 'add a comment to the discussion' in the central column if you want to respond directly to the main issue.
    • Click on 'your comment here' in any other column you would like to add your two cents.
    • Click on the '+' symbol at the end of any existing comment if you would like to respond to it directly.
    • Your comment will be moderated by our editorial staff and should appear shortly.
    • Rather than simply go down indefinitely in one text column like most blogs, your comment will appear where it is most relevant.

One 'learns' a 'daf' of the New Jerusalem Talmud by sitting down and facing the issue, with the page in front of you and a learning partner across from you.

  • The goal is to get beyond the simple polarizations and platitudes that so often define and limit our relationship with major issues.
  • Any real engagement with a major controversy requires nuance, context, and depth; if it was so simple, there would not be a debate at all.
  • There may be more than two sides.
  • There may be several levels of a controversy, levels of understanding it, levels of its impact on individuals, societies, and the planet.
  • Even when one side is outright WRONG about something, the simple fact that they exist necessitates an attempt to understand their perspective and priorities, in order to have a hope for conversation, communication, or accomodation or compromise (or better, ultimately: consensus).
Lost Password 17 Tiberias Street, Jerusalem, 94543, Israel            IL: (972) 546-214-658, US: 914-417-4478                       mtymausner@gmail.com            4 Directions Blog
June 24, 2010. OK, Welcome to the New Jerusalem Talmud discussion of assimilationÖ. We had a meeting at the Jewlicious Festival in LA in February to create the Mishnah of this and that seemed like an appropriate place to do it. Jewlicious is a meeting place of about 500 of some of the most amazing Jewish leaders, innovators, [1:10 ? Singers] and just engaged interested people from all over America and even some from Israel. We had a little group of people [?...] doing in America and we had a really good discussion of trying to figure out what assimilation looks like, of what the Mishanah should look like; what is the real question. We actually had a whole discussion towards the Gemara but we had it on Shabbos so we didnít write anything down, we didnít record anything so it exists in the larger [1:46 ?] sphere, which is appropriate for oral tradition. But weíre trying, -I mean, if you really had your dream of what learning Gemara would be like -my dream, Iím a historian so I want to know everything about everyone. I would want to know what was the bigger discussion going on when the chachamim came up with just the little bits we have on the page. Whatís each guyís life story, whereís he coming from, why did he think this and what did they actually say when they [? 2:12]. I donít know if we can put ourselves on that level; maybe a few of us someday, God willing. But I do believe that every one of us is coming from a place of truth; that you some how have connection and are simply passionate about an issue, to something real that is going on and thatís an important part of the discussion. So my name is Matthew Mausner; Iím a historian among other things, and I guess part of my focus as a historian is about identity [2:53 ?..]and what it would look like [?] so the area I studied most intensely was American Indian culture before they were conquered. Introductions 3:07 -Iím Stevie. Iím in training to be a scientist, a physicist. I suppose in terms of trying to identify what something means [?} to avoid [?}statements and to identify its [?]. -My name is Rob, Iím a tourist, Iíve been here a week but this is my 14th visit to Israel. Iíve done a lot of things both in Israel and outside of Israel. I worked for a while as a shepherd in the Galilee; I worked on an archeological dig in [3:59?] in the Negev. Iíve lived in Paris, Iíve lived in Berlin and I guess I currently live in Los Angeles. -My nameís Mo and Iím a Yeshiva student and Iím originally from New York Ėand Iím Sephardi, -where assimilation is an issue and extreme tactics for me is, especially in NY, is to reduce assimilation to nothing. 4:56 -My namesí Yaíakov Conssor. My background is in meteorology. Iíve been in Israel for a couple of years. [5:12Ö.?]. 5:25 -Avital [?.......] 6:16 -Mia [?......] 6:45 -My name is Michaella [Ö.?] and I study at Hebrew U. [?....] 7:28 My name is Ian. I [?...]. I just finished my junior year at Columbia [?]. Now Iím studying philosophy with a Jewish background [?....] 7:50 My name is Shoshanna [?...] 8:14 My name is Jordan [?...]. 8:55 My name is Steven. Iím an Oleh Chadash, tomorrow will be [?} weeks. I live in Arnona. In the states I was in New York City [?...]. Öpolitical science teacher in public schools [?...] Studied at Machon Meir [?...] 11:08 Names for simplicity: Stevie, Rob, Mo, Yaacov, Avital, Mia, Michaella, Ian, Shoshanna, Jordan, Steven -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11:23 Assimilation. Its what we boiled it down to. How much of non-Jewish cultures or values or places can be taken on or lived in before essential Jewish identity is lost. Where is that boundary? In order to answer that we realize you have to have some idea, it doesnít have to be the same idea for everybody but what and where makes Jews Jewish and who decides and why does it matter. So you donít have to answer it all at once but whoís got some ideas? 12:14 Stevie: Well I have a question right away. When I was doing my graduate degree in Jewish studies I had a question about whatís the difference between assimilation and acculturation. I never satisfactory answered it. When I studied inter-testamental literature and Hasmonean stuff and Greek presence here and Roman presence, there seems to be a distinction between people who retain a Jewish identity but still have some kind of interaction with the dominant alien culture and affiliation with it and those who take on a certain amount of that culture to the point and forfeit their Jewish identity so to me assimilation implies some Jewishness retained whereas acculturation is more the abandonment and rejection of Jewishness. Its something I used to think about and it came up for me today when it was apparent. 13:25 -There is a question if there is any opportunity for comparison which societies historically and in the modern period [?} with one or the other, acculturation or assimilation. -and within the same society both dynamics can be at work. They can even be at work in the same community with out any clear distinction among say its leaders or its participants that thatís whatís going on. 14:02 -Rob: Iíd like to play devils advocate in general so take whatever i say with a grain of salt. It may or may not be what Iím really thinking. So whatís wrong with assimilation? I mean isnít that one way Jews should be influencing the world? By joining the general culture and participating in it and being part of it? 14:22 Shosh Levin: Ideally that would be amazing; in an ideal world when your representation is active and thatís actually happening then its great because we are then able to take our light out into the nations, which is what we are supposed to do, our job in this world, and to really light it up. Sadly what happens I think, especially because of the numbers-- OK, itís not all about numbers but-- the number of people that you have, -you need to be a very, very strong positive light in order to have an influence on Ėwhat are Jews? Just .14% of the world population? There are so few of us that if we disperse singularly into this kind of darkness although not necessarily darkness of the non-Jewish world the likelihood of our light getting swallowed up as opposed to our light exploding outwards is not proportional to what is most desired for the ingenuity that Judaism is viewed. 15:43 SK So your saying the power of Judaism requires a sort of aggregation, a certain collective as individuals. As individuals Judaism wonít prevail, perhaps? 15:57 Shosh-Judaism is a community-based thing 16:00 SK -are we talking about assimilation of individuals or are we talking about assimilation of communities. Itís a distinction you have to ask. 16:07 MM: also, the subtext there of what you were saying was that it does matter somehow. That if a bunch of Jews just dispersed somehow into whatever society, you know, Spain in the 1100s or South Africa or France or America and I think the bigger one people talk about, capital ĎAí assimilation today, theyíre talking about America. The subtext I was hearing is that on some level it matters to you or youíre seeing it matters to some group of people who are somehow defining who Jews are and saying they are not staying with that definition and they are going off into, could be the darkness or it could be just dispersing into the population. 17:01 Shosh-Yes and no because even the most assimilated Jews that I know who Iíve had the pleasure to meet are people who donít even go to the other extreme and say Iím an atheist and I donít believe in religion because then thereís some sort of passion, some sort of fire, some sort of belief in this belief; Iím talking about people who are not at all connected to anything and kind of donít care either way. They still will say Iím a Jew. Like youíre least observant, least interested, least religious, least affiliated person and Iím going to go for America because thatís my background; I think we can all agree that we know these people and still they say, Iím a Jew. Is there a value in that and why do they do that. Even if they say, well, I donít do the whole religion thing but Iím Jewish. 18:01 SK-Well, Michael might say, because heís very interested in identity, just to have a place to hang your hat with a name on it provides a degree of comfort and direction that ultimately might be vacuous but itís a little more than what your favorite basketball team is. 18:21 -Matthew: I just want to míchazek us for a second that you said what about their grandchildren 18:28 Mia Right because if they are connected to Judaism because, oh yeah my grandparents in Poland wore black coats or whatever it is so fine. Thatís going to sort of get diluted over time and probably can get a lot [affected by assimilation]. -18:37 Well thatís the joke about Reform Jews; what do you call the grandchildren of Reform Jews? Christians. Not to disparage them because I was raised a Reform Jew and bar-mitzvahíd in a Christian church, in a Catholic Church, because my Reform synagogue had a building fund but no building but.[Shosh: Well thatís true]..they are trying to reverse it. But Robís question about assimilation, I think the question we have to ask is if there is a natural tendency to assimilate whether thereís a brake, B - R - A - K - E , in the Jewish tradition that allows us to assimilate to a certain level that generally prevents us from going to the point where it irrecoverable. I think thatís important. 19:24 Moe: I hear what youíre saying but at the same time there comes a point where a man is going to lose his Jewish identity. Fine, I can go and assimilate and I can be part of a whole not Jewish community and do business with them and go to dinner with them and whatever but there will be a certain point where the real mashmaut of his Jewishness is lost and it gets diluted and it gets knocked out. And basically lose Jewish identity so yes, its good up to a certain point. Up to that, great. 20:24 Matthew: before we start to really jump in to all of these potential directions does anyone else have something to say that hasnít put in yet? 20:32 Yeah, as also someone who is very interested in history, especially very knowledgeable in Jewish history, I want to point out ĖI donít know the number but something like 85, 90% of the descendants of Isaac Meir Wise, a well known Reform Rabbi in the late 19th century, are not Jewish and probably 95% of the first descendants of the most significant early Jewish families, which were mostly Sephardic Jewish families in the American 1700s are not Jewish. So it just shows you what the ravages of generations do to people that even thought the first and second generations many of them were completely observant and very, very rooted in the Jewish community but over time -and that was back then, -the pressures of assimilation were not necessarily as strong as they are today. 21:32 Matthew: I just want to qualify that by saying yes, and saying itís the ravages of generations, thatís a value judgment. Thereís a fact of a certain number of people becoming not Jewish and thereís a value judgment in saying itís a bad thing, so just to make thatÖ 21:52 I also wanted to add in, I think thereís a potential conflict between concerns about assimilation and [? really religious] people that they sort of, like [?} a chance for what they believe is [?} Jewish [?...] and I think it gets a little touchy in terms of what do people believe because its [?] putting it out there that theyíre Jewish [?......] but donít identify with a lot of things that we would identify with [?...]. 23:14 [?] I happen to have been in Petra [?]. Petra is the ancient Nabatean city in Jordan so I was looking at all the structure there [?]. Petra was conquered first by the Greeks and then by the Romans as were we and it was interesting thinking how these ancient Nabateans dealt with being conquered by these other ancients peoples [?} dealt with assimilation the way we dealt with it. They appropriated ancient Geeko-Roman architecture into their cities the building [?...] the Bar Kochba Revolt [?....] the Roman Empire [?...]. Weíre still here and the Nabateans are gone [?...] 24:26 Stevie: A lot of historical examples have been brought up and Iím also a student of history and it seems to me there is this kind of assumption that along with dispersal comes loss of identity but I would argue that the Jewish Peopleís identity was crystallized in exile and upon retuned from exile the returning Jewish community didnít trust the legitimacy of the existing Jewish community and that sort of the Ėthe defiance of the people who were in a subculture, that was their most defining aspect about them and similarly almost 1000 years later in the times of writing the Talmud, granted this is a story that is in the Talmud Bavli but the Talmud Bavli claims itself to be more legitimate than the Yerushalmi on the grounds that in exile they were more careful about keeping things correct and having a consistent passing down of traditions as opposed to sort of the assumption that within our place its all going to work and that in the modern era its very tempting to say that Israel, because its here, because itís a Jewish population, it will ensure a continuation of something Jewish which is true but its not necessarily the same something Jewish that we recognize and that is more likely to be maintained by the extremist cultures who are the people who perpetuated the revolts that you just mentioned and those extremist certainly exist both in Israel and America. 27:20 Jordan: ÖIím thinking a lot about American exceptionalism. Iím borrowing that term from the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren. He was talking about the American Jewish community in the loss of what I would call of tribal identity 27:36 [?} a new form of Christianity that arose but I want to borrow that term and say that America is unique in many ways and its unique in the strength of the political institution and the culture that it fills and within that framework and the ability to buy, to buy into the American individualism and that for the first time in history a nation was formed not on the basis of a cultural tribal identity but in the basis of a political philosophy that was consciously being developed between people who were political philosophers who were well read and were trying to, -they were true revolutionaries, they were trying to build a totally new foundation for a new type of civilization and in doing so I think they were very successful in creating institutions that over time when our people began coming in the 1970s and the different waves of migration that this individualistic tendency was -essentially broke down the tribal barriers that persisted for so many years that were maintained in other civilizatioins whether they were in Europe or in the Middle East and etc. So going back to the distinction between acculturation and assimilation, I wonder if America might be a test case and that we might see under a different type of phenomenon there relative to other regions in the world. 29:15 Matthew: I just want to reflect back a couple of things that have been saidÖAs a student of early American history they were very conscious about modeling their idea of America as a new creation explicitly on biblical precedent. They conceived of it as a new Jerusalem. Itís not such an accident that America and Israel are in such resonance on a lot of issues. In some ways they are the only two countries in the world that are explicitly founded on ideals rather than on ethnic accidents. Itís not so simple and not so clean but both were explicitly founded on an idealistic founding, which I think makes a big difference. To resonate back with what Michaella said about intermarriage being one of the sort of red lines thereís been times in Jewish history where Judaism was not strictly matrilineal; it was also patralinial and arguably up until the end of Roman times when it became, you know, Roman soldiers rapping became this big issue, that they explicitly made it matrilineal and that points in a lot of directions. One thing is that when we were secure in our own land worrying about assimilation wasnít such an issue because people who would come here would naturally assimilate towards us. Which is something you see in the period of Esther, the people were mityahadim, were judaizing. This issue even being and issue of assimilation is very dependant on historical context. In a lot of our Jewish history there was no option in terms of the way Ėthe societies around us defined our identity as well as our own. You were either in or you were out and there was no middle ground. In a lot of Europe and a lot of the Muslim world and even in various other places. Even in India it was not even an option. Itís really only in Babylon, and in different ways Greece and Rome and today in a lot of western countries to very different degrees. I think as Jordan said America is very different than Britain or Canada or Australia. The last example I want to throw into that as far a context is that South African Jewish identity; South Africans define their own identity as both proudly a member of a tribe, one of the 12 major nations or whatever, and as a South African and that those can be like, both strong. So I think from what Iíve seen its been easier for South African Jews to be proudly Jewish and proudly South African in a way that its very different than Australian or Canadian or French or American. So just in terms of looking at the different historical contexts the discussion that weíre having in terms of ĖI guess the last point, going back to something that was said a ways back was in terms of talking about assimilation as a problem weíre not so much worried about taking on a few little things like the Babylonian calendar or this or that. Weíre talking about going beyond the red line, that somehow weíre talking about people becoming so much a part of the societies they are in that they cease to be meaningfully part of the Jewish nation, however you define it. Ok, letís go deeper. 32:45 Michaella: are those the only things you want to talk about? Or do you want to concentrate on what values make us Jewish and help us [Ö?] Matthew: The answer is yes. 33:04 I think itís difficult to define that line, especially in the situation that we find ourselves in as a global community Jews in the whole world. There are; where as in a time where they was less room for debate, less room for discussion, less room for personal interpretation, now if you ask me youíre only a Jew if your mother is a Jew or if youíre converted in a way that I believe is appropriate. But if you ask one of my fatherís colleagues from college he will tell you youíre a Jew if your mother and or your father is a Jew. And then you can have further people who say I feel like a Jew, I donít need to make it official in any kind of way because what we have is not really something you can touch or feel or see. Itís not a race and itís not a gene, although there was an article; its something that on the strictest terms is defined very much according to blood. It has nothing to do with that. And so anyone can really define how they want to be defined in this world and so for us to come and say to somebody else youíre crossing the line or this is the line, they would come back and say no, youíre crossing the line by telling me there is a line. So how do we even get to that -if weíre ever going to get to any kind of beginning of a discussion then Ėthereís ideas floating around and Iím having a hard time trying to figure out when this discussion is going to start because thereís no way to get everyone to agree on any one thing. 35:10 I would say yes, on that youíre right and in order to create distinctions, like maybe we could look at, ok, like, Iím thinking about I have some really fanatical orthodox friends that I bring a Reform or even a Conservative guy which Iím friends with and my judgment is that he is for all intensive purposes Jewish, this fanatic is going to say no heís not. -And I have a lot of friends who would come and say that guy is a fanatic crazy Jew. -Probably. So what I would say is that in a Reform setting that would be the line and in a Conservative setting and even in the Chareidi -for a modern Orthodox person that would be the line. It really depends from what background your looking at. 36:15 -I feel like [?] since we are we talking about Judaism as a different religion or a culture or an ethnicity. I hear a lot of discussion of who is a Jew, you know, according to my religious ideologies or different people who have these ideologies but I was thinking about what Michaella was talking about before about Anti-Semitism as internalizing Anti-Semitism and thereís so many factors that go into being Jewish culturally and ethnically. There are plenty of people that would say Iím not Jewish, I donít keep anything, I donít identify, I donít know anything about Judaism but, youíre still effected by anti-Semitism and internalize that anti-Semiticm. Lots of other Jews donít want to just define Judaism by the negative aspects butÖ 37:12 Matthew: I want to reflect back, also I wanted to say this before and then I forgot. First, your question: are we talking about religion, ethnicity, identity, whatever, -the answerís yes. Itís a theme in Torah, I think, that often the anti-Semites or Amalek or whoever it is defines us. Comes into us and has conflict with us partly to define us. Thatís one of the strands of Jewish thinking in many eras. Certainly Nuremberg laws is something that defines us; that no matter how assimilated people were in Europe the Germans fanatically tracked down the records and anyone with one Jewish grandparent was treated as a Jew no matter how loyally they served in the German army or their conversion to Catholicism was. So there is a certain component of anti-Semitism defining us in spite of our own attempts to define or un-define people as Jews. 38:28 -I would like us to acknowledge some internal mechanisms, which is at work, not only in our discussion but in general discussions about Judaism and Jewry, and world Jewry. That there is a compulsion to maximize our numbers. Why? Instead of minimilizing them. Why? Some how our numbers, our presence is going to Ėthatís the determining factor in our pride, in our faith; in our legitimacy. To do that we by necessity dilute whatever criteria we are using, the volume of the criteria and the nature of the criteria, and I think there is something problematic about it. And I think if you look at it from the point of view of the law Ėof course there are two foundations for my understanding of things; of a people and thatís the law and traditions that relate to the law and the historical experiences in relation to that law. And then you have the Judaism of law and what you call the anti-nomial Judaism which is either indifferent to law, resistant to law or only in part dedicated to law and that focus of law and this attempt to, this desire to maximalize our numbers, I think, are in real conflict and they come up in every discussion of the Jewish People today. 40:27 -Yeah, I just want to go back to and earlier point which was to say that there, -I think its very interesting that, that there is in Jewish tradition sort of a ceremony that goes along with joining the Jewish People and that Ėin Bahai faith for example someone simply decides they are Bahai and they are; there specifically is no ceremony, itís an everyone is welcome attitude. In Judaism there has always been something physical, -a circumcision, an immersion, and so forth that sort of separates that turning point and the number of steps that go into it has changed in time to be sure and there was also once also a category called Ger Toshav, of people who did not go through those steps but were still part of the Jewish community and its unclear exactly what part they played. Its possible that they were intermarried with Jewish People, its unclear historically as far as I know. Anyway, I think there is, that its sort of an important part of identity to be able to sort of grant -the leaving of Judaism there isnít something to point to which is why its such a hazy red line but the idea that there is something. 42:10 Matthew: -Not since the Greek times when we tried to reverse circumcision. -Well, those were the days. 42:31 -Just in terms of the real issue of Jews being focused on maximilizing our numbers, there are only 13 million Jews in the world, approximately. There are over a billion Catholics and over a billion Muslims. Iím not saying that justifies why we should not mazimilize our numbers but lets say God forbid, hypothetically a second Holocaust occurs and wipes out six million Jews. That would be half the worldís Jewish population and lets say the other half continued on this path of assimilation/ acculturation. It always seems to me problematic and I agree it shouldnít be our primary focus. We should be focusing on -I didnít say it shouldnít be, I just pointed it out. -no, right, it is an issue. We seems so be focused on that and maybe not focused on other [43:18?] but I think its not something which we should [?]. 43:25 -I grew up in the Orthodox yeshiva system in Brooklyn and a big part of my experience with that was this emphasis on the numbers. Thereís this constant, it felt almost like a scare tactic: Weíre dieing out! We have to make sure we donít die out! Like the dinosaurs. So not that its not an important thing to think about but the why does this matter part of this Mishnah is really important and thatís not necessarily something thatís looked into enough, discussed enough, and thatís why I think, its like many, many in my class [44:12?]. I think [?] but there not so much interested. I think that emphasis verses not thinking so much why does it matter [?...]. 44:32 -Because your teachers focused on the tribal elements of connecting to the Torah and to Judaism and thatís exactly what I claim didnít work in America at all and itís not going to work at all in the modern world if America and individual values of the outside culture maintain its strength and attraction [44:52?] that the approach has to be that we have a unique national mission, to spread a particular set of values and if thereís not a buy-in to that national mission the fear factor is not going to work. Most Jews I know are not fearful in America about their existence, that their property can be confiscated. Even in our tradition, which is very, very long the Holocaust happened and the last attempt before that Ėthere were pogroms here and there but they were localized. The last kind of global attempt was the Purim story so even if we played the number historically thatís not going to happen for a while so why should I be concerned about that and frankly Iím not so concerned about dieing, myself, anyway. I came here [to Israel] because Ií, not so concerned about dieing Ėso it canít be the tribal aspect of Ďwe just must exist because weíve existed for a long time.í Its got to be what Avraham Avinu reflected that we have a unique mission of spreading Godliness and a particular set of values of Godliness around in the world. 46:06 Rob: So Iíd like to question that. It seems the underlying question is, are we fulfilling some unique purpose and especially at this point. At one point we were the first people to proclaim there is one God and now many people in the world believe that. If everybody decided to assimilate and I donít think if that would happen but if that happened what would be lost? Does it really matter to the world, arenít the values that we came here to proclaim, arenít they already part of the world and will continue even if we - 47:02 -on a similar point I think; my opinion would be that if there is -that considering that some other cultures that I donít identity with that I donít know much about or understand, if they were to disappear and be absorbed by some pervasive world wide super culture then I think that would be a tragedy and it certainly does happen and just as I am not a member of an endangered species I care about endangered species and thatís an almost silly analogy but I think it gets the point across and we can go in the sub communities of the Jewish culture also. I do identify with Yiddish speaking people- 47:59: Ladino. Ö Ladino is a very serous one in danger and small Chassidic groups and Sephardim in certain parts of America and Ashkenazim in certain parts of Israel and obviously the smaller groups within those groups that I think the issue of assimilation is not necessarily a value judgment of Ďthis group of people is more important than whatever other culture they are a part of.í I think that if all Ėchoose a small country in central Europe, -got absorbed by Germany and is culturally indistinguishable after that I think that would be a shame and even though I donít have an personal identification with that. 49:08. -Why would that be a shame? Iím just curious. You mentioned that it would be tragic if any thing were wiped off the face of the earth, any group of people, right. 49:19 -Dozens of languages get extinct every day. That is in some way tragic. Is it something thatís going to have a profound impact on the fate of humanity? 49:31 -I think that itís a western kind of education that they taught us that every thing, every person, -Iím not saying this is wrong, I just think this idea that things shouldnít get extinct, that things should be preserved, -I think it comes from this idea that we are all conditioned to know and believe that everything is equally important and special and everything, -a snowflake. How true is that? I donít know. 50:05 -Even western culture doesnít really believe that because western culture for many hundreds of years sought to destroy other cultures 50:12 -Maybe this is a reaction to that. -Right, but this is I think an apologetic reaction 50:16 -Matthew: let me reel that back in. that like, it is really important to make the distinction that like there is a value of preserving diversity but getting back to what we were saying before, what is the mission? What are we doing here as Jews? What does it matter? Is there a buy-in of being Jewish? Sometimes it depends on believing we have a mission and having that be widely understood. And it does matter in a sense that like we could try to resurrect the Aztec culture but does that mean they should go back to cannibalizing 14,000 on every summer solstice? I donít knowÖ.may beÖ. May beÖlets follow that all the way through. I mean they are probably working on it. So just ground it back in history and reflect back on what a couple of people said, I think for the first maybe 1000 years of Judaism there was a pretty clear sense of the people who were identifying as Jews that very central to our mission was ridding the world of Avodah Zahra, was bringing monotheism to the world. Once that shifted, -like by the end of Roman times it was pretty clear that that was happening. There is a whole discussion we could get into of Esther and how she was the goddess representative of the Avodah Zahra culture and is like [? the goddess/ that God] sacrificed herself to be a part of Judaism and that was like the turning point. The Chachamim see that as like the turning point in actually ridding the world of Avodah Zahra and, that then Avodah Zahraís days were number after that. And then the Greek and Roman thing happened and then we get expelled from the land and I think for most Jews for most of the last 1800 years ĖI donít know if they could have really articulated that much of a mission except to say we are going to survive until some sort of redemption or return to the land or whatever but I think most Jews would have agreed that was central to the Jewish mission and a lot of ways halacha changed when we went into exile, -kashrut and intermarriage was designed explicitly to keep us separate from the other nations while we were in exile. The last thing I want to say is that now we are back in the land that almost demands in terms of this logic a total redefinition of the Jewish mission and I think we are seeing this manifest in the collapse of collective American Jewish identity. That now Jews in America donít know whether they are American or Jewish. They donít know whether they should move to Israel or want to reject Jews who stand up for themselves and who are no longer the victim. Jews identified very strongly with a lot of American values, as Jordan was saying, and a lot of the ideals of America. And a lot of these western liberal ideas that happened in South Africa too, Jews were very, very identified with the liberal ending Apartied, all sorts of things like that. One of the more interesting things I read about the í67 war is that all the Jewish, -after 1000s of years of might being right, in 1967 the world radically shifted and suddenly it finally became cool to be the victim and right at that exact instant Israel had the chutzpah to massively win a war. So western Jewish liberals never quite forgave Israel for that and thatís kid of like at the heart of this split, which is part of the split in the entire world between were you pro-Vietnam or were you anti-Vietnam; were you pro-the counter culture, were you conservative, and like where does that split? I think now a couple of generations after Ď67 weíre starting to see some people who are getting out of that dichotomy and thatís where I think real potential leads towards figuring out what the Jewish mission really is. I donít know if thatís whatís happening in this discussion but I think we are at least asking that question and seeing that potential. 54:29 I think that is very good but I think that Israel as a nation as a country

The video for this discussion is not yet available.