Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

Israelis, Russians, Ethiopians, Jews from Arab lands, and Jews from Christian lands are probably influenced just as much by their cultures of adoption as they are by Judaism. You can tell an American Chasid from an Israeli one. If Jews are defined as having a common culture, is it one of religion or of card playing? How can all their different histories, cultures, and attitudes be reconciled if Jewish history is concerned with culture? But one might study their institutions and systems under a rubric of Jewish structures. And what about Kabbalah? Is it mainstream Judaism or fringe? If it is a category of Jewish culture? (In which case Madonna could be more Jewish than a rabbinical Talmudist!) But that is the beauty of postmodernism. It opens up new worlds, new ideas that I find liberating. A Jew is indeed anyone who declares or feels to be one. The only problem is when you want other Jews to agree with you!

Postmodernism recognizes the variations and validates them. But in so doing it creates such an indeterminate category as to be gutless, passionless, and all but meaningless. I don’t belong entirely to any of the categories that postmodernism offers as defining Jews, although in part to some. But in one area, the religious, I live a clearly Jewishly-defined way of life, more animated by the Jewish tradition than any other. I do indeed walk in Athens and Jerusalem, but there’s no doubt in my mind which and what matters most, even if my version has little in common with 90% of other Jews. In other words, I am who I am. And Moshe Rosman helps me feel very good about it.

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Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.

1 COMMENT

  1. Holy smokes! Three great articlles in one issue. Thank you, Mr. Rosen, for this one. It really defines the present situation. When asked by an academic and/or a fundamentalist about my beliefs I simply say that I am a Conservative Judeo- Christian Catholic and Jesuit wanna-be. You should see their faces.

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