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Started by Freethinker31. Last reply by Freethinker31 on Friday. 4 Replies

The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (by Chabon)

Started by jlaz. Last reply by Mordekhai ben-Yosef on Friday. 1 Reply

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Comment by Adam on March 6, 2010 at 1:14pm
@Phil Good point. Even if the exegetical foundation survives and develops at what point past becoming secular would it cease to actually be Jewish? Sort of like a species evolving; at what point does a proto-cow become a modern cow, right?
Comment by Jennifer Kaufman on March 6, 2010 at 1:10pm
Are the hasidic/Lubavitcher jews part of this? All the nonsense about separation... It is all so desperate, a way of being special it seems to me. Like being even MORE chosen of their god. I can't believe I ever once bought into that. My mom's family were reform living among hasids, they thought they were better than her.
Comment by Adam on March 6, 2010 at 11:38am
@Phil Judaism is a fundamentally legalistic religion. It's a set of rules and judgment is found based on action, as opposed to Christianity which is about what you feel and believe. By extension this makes Judaism easier to preserve without religious underpinnings. It's not about belief. It's not about faith. It's about knowing a set of laws and being able to argue about them. This is why Jews are known as historical debaters and arguers. The secular Yiddish movement followed this patter, moving the debate from rabbinic subject matter to philosophy and politics. Taking Jewish culture and values and applying them to a philosophical Humanism shouldn't be all that difficult, though those who embrace the religious aspects of Judaism will find it needless.

@Ralph Just a note about Yiddish preservation: your last statement is actually two-fold and I argue against half of it.

1) "Preserving Yiddish culture in the contemporary world is an inherently artificial process"
There are many Orthodox communities that raise their children to speak Yiddish as their first language. This is helped along by the fact that here are Yeshivas that also teach the language. Yiddish is in danger of being isolated from the secular world but it's not actually in danger of dying out.

2) "only a fool would exclude anyone who wants to participate in it."
Those "fools" would be the Orthodox and I don't want to pass judgment on them one way or another in this short comment, but they do want to exclude people from it so you can probably finish that thought on your own...
Comment by Ralph Dumain on March 6, 2010 at 10:08am
If a culture can't let other people participate in it, it doesn't deserve to survive. BTW, a couple years ago a black woman got a PhD in Yiddish Studies, an historical first. She was not welcomed with open arms by everyone, though she was obviously not discouraged by everyone, either. Preserving Yiddish culture in the contemporary world is an inherently artificial process; only a fool would exclude anyone who wants to participate in it.
Comment by Jennifer Kaufman on February 28, 2010 at 9:26am
Fyi, I loved his Mother Theresa book too, the missionary position. Brought me out of my jewish-atheist shell, now I can't stand all religions. Hitchens was the "devils advocate" at the Vatican when her cause went up for sainthood. Now, it turns out, she was an atheist, but was encouraged to stay in religion for institutional reasons.
Comment by Jennifer Kaufman on February 28, 2010 at 9:15am
Sorry. I was thinking of the god is not great.
Comment by Eric on February 27, 2010 at 8:57pm
@Jennifer Kaufman - I refer you to Hitchens book, he explains it so well.

What's the name of the Hitchens book you're referring to? I assume you're talking about Christopher Hitchens, so do you mean God Is Not Great, The Portable Atheist, or another book? I looked up Christopher Hitchens on Amazon, and apparently he is a prodigious writer, there are 25 books by the same guy.
Comment by Eric on February 27, 2010 at 8:47pm
@Phil Poland -
Are there people on JA who still believe that the Exodus was historical?

- I think there must be some historical kernel of truth buried somewhere in the story. There must have been some sort of historical accident. It didn't get made up out of whole cloth. It had to have come from somewhere in the first place. I don't believe 200,000 Jews were in the original Exodus, no way. But the other problem is that the area the other side of the Exodus where everybody fled to, recent research shows that area was also under Egyptian influence. So I'm very confused what the whole Exodus was really about. Maybe some other narrative from some other neighboring culture was hijacked and re-appropriated.

I do know that at some point in ancient Israel history, some stories were apparently rewritten to help unify the Jews of northern Israel with those of southern Israel, and some liberties might have been taken in the melding of stories from the north and south as a way to make sure that everybody felt included in the new unified community. They were more interested in whether everybody felt included than in whether the melding of the stories made complete sense. I don't remember, I think the Babylonians or some other empire invaded the northern part of Israel and the people who escaped made their way to the southern part of the country and the Jews from the south did their best to welcome their fellow neighbors from the north. The Exodus narrative would have been before this time so maybe the story melders approached this story the way you'd approach silly putty, and that's why we have no idea how to really make sense of it today.
Comment by Ralph Dumain on February 27, 2010 at 4:25pm
Phil is correct on all counts. On the myth of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, see my blog:

"Judaeo-Christian tradition, American civil religion, Anti-Semitism, Jeremiah Wright"
Comment by Adam on February 27, 2010 at 1:34pm
@Phil So true. I take just as much pride in the agnostic intellectual Yiddish culture as any other par of Judaism, if not more. They focused on fiction, theatre and political theory and dissent. Often they were unconcerned with god, if not outright atheistic. They were also, without a doubt, a Jewish community. The culture I take pride in isn't about what's happened to us. It's what we've accomplished.

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