Friday, March 2, 2012

Liberal Judaism in the UK asking the big questions....

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, I don't know why it didn't get published on the blog. Here it is....

Just read two excellent pieces by UK Liberal Jews, both of which, from different directions touch on what it means to be Jewish. I know neither author, but agree with most of what both say. The first article I found on Facebook:

It seems to be written by an extremely articulate "Boger" (graduate member) of LJY Netzer, who unfortunately, I don't believe I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, but I hope to one day. He just needs to go on and say what Jewishness is, as well as what it isn't. Maybe he could take some inspiration from the words of another Liberal UK Jew, Rabbi David Goldberg, who writes this article in the Groinyard. (Those who have read my previous posts will note my failure in steering clear of the Guardian's CIF pages).

Goldberg's article is very sensible and very well written. He essentially argues that Jewishness and Christianity still have something to teach when denuded of their religious accouterments.

I do believe, however, that his article may be misunderstood by the average non-Jew, since it falls into the trap pointed out by Mr Walmsley's article above (the Boger of LJY Netzer). It is occasionally misleading, as it seems to suggest that Jewishness and Christianity are co-terminous, parallel entities. As if Judaism is a religion in the same way Christianity is. Jewishness is the culture of an ethnic group called the Jews (I am clearly more happy defining what we ARE than David). Christianity is a faith-based religion of many peoples, invented by a group of Jews and Europeans, but practiced today primarily by victims of European colonialism. Christianity is based on faith, and always has been. To be a Jew has never been based in faith - but rather as an ancient primitive culture, Jewishness assumed an understanding of the world in which the unknown was explained through a mythical Godhead. But the basis of Jewish culture, like all cultures has always been an organic connection to the cultural center through ties of land, language, kinship or shared heritage. Atheist Jewishness is not Oxymoronic - most Jewish heroes have engaged, in one point in their lives, in a rebellion against the mainstream understanding of the divine within their society - in fact - some of our foundational myths rests on the idea of revolting against mainstream understanding of the divine (both the Abrahamic and the Mosaic myths). Christianity, on the other hand, is a faith based cultural narrative. As the now infamous Dawkins' poll, referred to in the article, showed, it is hard to still consider it a faith. And as the author here suggests - after faith, values can remain, and continue to be meaningful. Yishar Koah to UK Liberal Judaism for stoking the fires of interesting debate.

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