The problem of the meaning of being a Jew in the modern world has at long last captured the attention of both Israeli and American Jewish leadership. American Jews worry about increases in intermarriage that threaten to dilute the future numbers and quality of American Jewish life.
Israelis are only beginning to worry about the weakness of Judaic consciousness and knowledge among their youth. In both America and Israel, Jewish women, who constitute a critical resource in enhancing the Jewish future, are seeking avenues for expression of their identity and connectedness to Jewish tradition and securing their equality as women in Jewish communal life.
Jews everywhere share a common struggle to identify the salience of Jewish tradition in a world of person autonomy, freedom of choice, and cultural diversity. Israeli society must ask itself if it is indeed linked to thousands of years of Jewish life in the Diaspora or whether it forms an entirely new entity. Israeli and Diaspora Jews alike have a stake in creating meaningful expressions of Jewish identification in which all Jews can participate and ultimately transmit to the next generation. In turn, an ideology of collective Jewish meaning can help answer the question today of why be Jewish.
More particularly, for American Jewry, Jewish identity is generally personal and voluntary. For Israelis, by contrast, a Jewish society bestows a collective identity suggesting participation in a national endeavor. Both expressions enrich one another.
Date: 2/11/1995 12:00:00 AM
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