Today is Yom Ha’atzma’ut – Israel’s Independence Day. It is also Openly Secular Day.
So, you know, it’s a pretty big day for a Secular Humanistic Jew.
You can be Jewish and something else. Need evidence? Me, and many others. There’s a thriving, formalized Secular Humanistic Jewish movement in the United States and in Eretz Yisrael.
Secular Jewishness. It’s a thing–even in Israel, where many secular Jews worry that the vision of Hatikva (the Israeli national anthem) of being a free people in the land, is threatened by the ever-expanding authority of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.
From April Rosenblum’s “Offers We Couldn’t Refuse,” in the May-June ’09 issue of Jewish Currents:
He had worked for years with an organization founded by a secular Jewish radical, and was inspired politically by Emma Goldman and other prominent secular Jews of the early 20th century, yet when I remarked that his lack of religion was no reason to question his Jewishness, it was something of a revelation to him.
Among Israeli secular Jews whom we can celebrate this Yom Ha’atzma’ut? David Ben-Gurion. Moshe Dayan. Golda Meir. Yitzhak Rabin. Amos Oz. Yehuda Amichai. A.B. Yehoshua. Shulamit Aloni.
You can be secular and Jewish, and claim both proudly.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism is a partner organization in Openly Secular Day. You can learn more about the Society for Humanistic Judaism here: http://www.shj.org.
You can learn more about the Israeli movement here (assuming you read Hebrew; I’m not sure I’d go around trusting Google Translate): http://israelijudaism.org.il.
I had planned to post yesterday for Tish’a B’Av. I started writing a post, but the draft didn’t save, and by the time I noticed the draft hadn’t saved, it was too late in my day to start again. It was going to be a barn-burner, too, an approving response to Rabbi Michael Lerner’s article on Salon.com, and his subsequent post at the Tikkun Magazine website, about how Israel is destroying Judaism as he knows it.
But then the draft didn’t save. (Side note to the WordPress admins: why is it easier to create a post where there won’t be an automatic save of the draft? Not a very friendly feature, I think.)
So here we are, Tish’a B’Av (and counting). (Using the Hebrew number isn’t going to get any search engine hits.)
I haven’t posted much on Israel, the two Palestinian boys (one murdered, one beaten), the current exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas, etc. I won’t post much on that, for a few reasons.
First, there’s no piece of this that isn’t heartbreaking to me. I have my own opinions on the matter. But I find it difficult to move past that to articulate much else that hasn’t already been said, or that I wouldn’t disagree with myself later.
Second, I occupy a privileged position. That is to say, I live here (in Indiana), not there. I don’t live in Israel, or in Gaza, or in the West Bank. I’m in the cheap seats; I don’t like to write posts from the cheap seats. And I definitely don’t like to write posts from the cheap seats when the matters are of such great significance as this.
Finally, work gets in the way. I don’t feel at liberty to discuss political matters–because I understand myself to be legally bound not to do so. So I don’t, and won’t.
I expect, then, that this will be my last post on the matter. Not because I’m not thinking about it or worried about it. But because it is, for me, literally unspeakable.
Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan, writing at SophiaStreet, has a post prompted by the deaths of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel. (I’ve previously posted about this here and here.) In her post, Rabbi Kaplan argues that theodicy helps respond to suffering. She briefly catalogs the weaknesses of theodicy. For brevity’s sake, we will say that the basic problem with theodicy responses is that they have to contend with logical contradictions inherent to understanding God as all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing, and yet allowing evil into the world.
She turns at the end of the post to say that yesterday, she would have thought these responses to be useless. Today (in light of the three students’ murders), however:
I deeply appreciate the work of Rabbis Without Borders. My attendance at the Fall 2013 student retreat was a tremendous experience for me. And I truly do want to see more cohesiveness in the Jewish community.
The RWB blog on MyJewishLearning.com has a post wondering about whether Jews can unite. Its starting point is what’s dominated news in the Jewish community: the Bring Back Our Boys effort in the wake of the kidnapping of the three yeshiva students near Hebron. And let’s be clear: whatever your position on Israel, the Palestinians, the settlements, SodaStream, PCUSA’s divestment decision, or anything else, kidnapping students is a horrendous thing to do and not something that will resolve anything.
Critical as I often am of The Forward, it does occasionally provide some gems. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always push hard enough, even when it does turn over the correct stone. Even a blind pig will find an acorn once in a while.
Having extensively mixed my metaphors, what am I talking about? This. Apparently, the Israeli government wants to drop a few hundred million dollars to save American Judaism to help American Jews figure out how to be Jewish. Or something.
It’s like mansplaining, but about Israel. It’s “Israelsplaining”!
Rabbi Natan Slifkin blogs over at Rationalist Judaism. Rabbi Slifkin is an “Orthodox” rabbi with an interest in science and rationalism, sort of in the Maimonides vein. I don’t always like or agree with what he says–I think there’s just too much contortion necessary to reach the reconciliations he does. (See this post from Freethinking Jew for more than I’m willing to put into words on that topic at the moment.)
In any case, Rabbi Slifkin has this gem on his blog today. I’m not so much focused on the absurdities of the yeshiva system in Israel or the U.S. (though, let’s be clear, it’s absurd in so many cases and so many ways). But sometimes–sometimes–one just has to enjoy a little schadenfreude.
There are not a lot of “safe spaces” in American Jewish life to talk about Israel. If that seems like a ridiculous statement, I invite you to take a look at what’s happening at Hillel.
If there is any single facet of my time as a student–at all education levels–that most cemented my Jewish identity, it was my (initially grudging) involvement in Hillel programs at my undergraduate school–including AIPAC programming that I happily participated in. And so it pains me to see this article, and others, about what’s going on at Hillels and other Jewish student organizations with respect to talking about Israel.