Tuesday, June 29, 2004

American Jewish History

I would think that I could manage to avoid any discussion of "American Jewry"'s "350 year anniversary". However, that appears not to be the case.

In a recent essay, published in the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Sarna, essentially argues that we should all study American Jewish history to get a wider perspective on American Judaism and options. Building off an older essay of his on a late 19th century Jewish revival (A great awakening: the transformation that shaped twentieth century American Judaism and its implications for today), Sarnaargues that Judaism is not about assimiliation and acculturation, but there are a lot options that studying American Jewish History will uncover. Now, I have read his earlier essay and remain unconvinced. What he describes is the creation of Jewish institutions, Jewish organizations, and a bit of revivalism. But it fundamentally was Jewishly shallow. This is the same problem as the BBB does not get. American Jewish History studied for alternatives from the past are usually both Jewishly boring and Jewishly shallow. Furthermore, as Orthodox Jews, we should not perceive outselves as heirs to the long Tradition of American Jewry. And if the reason why you are studying American Jewish History is to justify to the Goyim that Jews are as loyal Americans as any other sub-group, than I genuinely feel sorry for them.

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