Talmud This Shabbat: Has America’s Idealism Drained its Jews of Their Resilience?


Every once in a while, a thought piece comes along that stops you dead in your tracks. That holds up a mirror. That initiates deep thinking and conversation about us and our world.

Such a piece came out today in Mosaic, an article by Daniel Gordis entitled: How America’s idealism Drained its Jews of Their Resilience. A copy of the article is attached here. You can love it (as I do). Or hate it (as many undoubtedly will). Please just don’t ignore it. It is too good, too thoughtful, too wise, to be ignored.

Here is his point: When Israeli Jews, and Orthodox American Jews, experienced violence, terrorism, anti-Semitism, they made it a point to get back up and to get back to business as soon as possible. Among other examples, he cites Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, the site of a terrorist attack that killed 15 and wounded more than 130. The inside of the restaurant was utterly destroyed. Construction crews worked around the clock to get it reopened, and in two months, it was back in business. Patrons who were there on the day of the homicide bomber made it a point to sit exactly where they were sitting on the day of the attack, and to resume their meal.

Contrast that, Gordis points out, to Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue which, two years later, is still not back in operation.

Why is that?

Gordis has a definite point of view here. My colleagues and I will discuss his take. It leaves me, personally, in an uncomfortable position. I don’t want to agree with him. Instinctively, I want to chafe at and resist his conclusions. I just cannot find one that is off.

He has one particularly lyrical and evocative statement. Noting that progressive American Jewish communities rewrite liturgy (you will see how Siddur Lev Shalem has done just that), he observes “they are finding that a rewritten liturgy is now rewriting them.”

Here are the prayers, tachanun and av harachamim, that he discusses in this stunning essay.

See you on Shabbat on the Gann Chapel Livestream.

Moadim L’simcha,
Wes