Non­fic­tion

God Is In the Crowd: Twen­ty-First Cen­tu­ry Judaism

  • Review
By – December 17, 2018

This game-chang­ing explo­ration of a pos­si­ble path for a Jew­ish future is both alarm­ing and hope­ful. The facts Keinan relays about Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion trends, weak­en­ing Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, and the costs of exclu­siv­i­ty in Jew­ish move­ments and orga­ni­za­tions are heart­break­ing. His most fright­en­ing obser­va­tion is that his book, and the under­stand­ings and argu­ments it offers, may be nine­ty years too late. Keinan is point­ing the way toward a rev­o­lu­tion, a last-ditch effort to com­bat and counter the forces that, if not checked will, in a few gen­er­a­tions or less, make Judaism extinct.

Keinan won’t allow Jews to keep bet­ting on God’s love for the cho­sen peo­ple” to save the day. God’s love has always been con­di­tion­al. If God is any­where, it is in the hard-won con­sen­sus about Jew­ish iden­ti­ty and val­ues that those who care will bring about. In this way, God is in the crowd.

In a sit­u­a­tion that demands greater inclu­siv­i­ty, Keinan argues that embrac­ing the stan­dards, prac­tices, and goals that approach uni­ver­sal accep­tance among Jews world­wide rep­re­sents our best best at turn­ing the tide and ensur­ing a Jew­ish future. To get there, edu­ca­tion­al pat­terns and pri­or­i­ties must change, and stead­fast com­mit­ment needs to go viral.

Keinan care­ful­ly exam­ines the strengths and weak­ness of the two dom­i­nant cen­ters of Jew­ish life: the U.S. and Israel. He diag­noses the short­com­ings of each, the ways in which soci­etal seg­ments exclude and under­mine one anoth­er, the estab­lished con­di­tions fun­nel­ing Jew­ish his­to­ry, wis­dom, and cre­ativ­i­ty into a death spi­ral. He offers chal­leng­ing solu­tions that require buy­ing into a mas­ter plan — or invent­ing a bet­ter one.

His plan is three-pronged: the rein­vig­o­ra­tion of the wis­dom machine” that main­tained and shaped Jew­ish com­mu­nal­i­ty dur­ing the Dias­po­ra epoch, the for­ma­tion of a Jew­ish World Endow­ment that would engage and pro­vide resources for young Jews, and the retask­ing of Israel’s pres­i­den­cy as glob­al admin­is­tra­tor of the Jew­ish peo­ple. Keinan envi­sions the pres­i­den­cy as becom­ing the con­ven­ing point for Jews around the world to debate fun­da­men­tal ques­tions of Peoplehood.”

Keinan expects and encour­ages respons­es to his impas­sioned plea for Jews world­wide to end their march toward sui­cide. The pow­er of the book is as much in the abun­dance of pre­cise details as in its over­all vision, which is clar­i­fy­ing and magnetic.

Woven through the tapes­try of facts and ideas is the com­pelling strand of Keinan’s own life as an Amer­i­can stu­dent, an offi­cer and a fight­er pilot in Israel’s Air Force, a suc­cess­ful entre­pre­neur shut­tling between the U.S. and Israel, and a con­cerned par­ent. He asks, echo­ing the great Tal­mu­dic-era Jew­ish leader Rab­bi Hil­lel, If not now, when?”

Philip K. Jason is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Eng­lish at the Unit­ed States Naval Acad­e­my. A for­mer edi­tor of Poet Lore, he is the author or edi­tor of twen­ty books, includ­ing Acts and Shad­ows: The Viet­nam War in Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Cul­ture and Don’t Wave Good­bye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Per­se­cu­tion to Amer­i­can Free­dom.

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