Jewish Peoplehood: A View From Mumbai

David a.k.a. 'Salman Khan'  teaching in the slums; photo courtesy Gabriel Project Mumbai.

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Jacob Sztokman and Elana Maryles Sztokman One of the most powerful messages in the Torah is the mission of the Jewish people to look after the vulnerable members of society. This is an integral theme - if not the most important theme - of the Bible: to care for all marginalized people, the poor, foreigners, and all those fates have left them vulnerable in this world. More prevalent than keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, or many other practices that we tend to use to define ourselves as Jews, this mandate connects us back to our basic origins, to our birth as a people during the Exodus, as the Torah repeatedly says that the commandment to empathize … [Read more...]

Re-examining Jewish Peoplehood in the Age of Instagram

ig-logo

"Perhaps it is a stretch to consider the use of Instagram as a metaphor for the varied lenses, textures, color treatments, and aesthetic sensibilities we use to understand the subject of Jewish Peoplehood." Ruth Messinger [This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Ruth Messinger with Jordan Namerow On a recent ski trip to Utah, my granddaughter introduced me to Instagram. We were enjoying a majestic view from the chair lift when she whipped out her iPhone from her snow pants and started snapping pictures. “I’m Instagramming,” she said. For “digital immigrants” like me who know nothing about Instagram - an app for smart phones - here’s the basic gist. First you take a picture. Then you … [Read more...]

“Active Bystander” Responsibility: Collectivism through the Lens of Responsibility

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Nir Lahav and Idit Groiss Responsibility and Individualism Knowledge equals power. Everyone knows that. The modern world is scrambling to acquire as much knowledge as possible, and to get there first, before anyone else does. But what do we do with that power? Our conscience and Jewish texts tell us that knowledge also equals responsibility. We cannot ignore that which we know to be wrong. We're not allowed to. Jewish Law states clearly: "Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:16). This law obliges the bystander to go to extraordinary lengths in order to save a victim, even as far as hiring … [Read more...]

From Israel to Budapest: Reflections on Universalism Vs. Particularism

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Limor Friedman On my way to work every day, I pass by Lewinsky Park across from Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. Despite the fact that my 12 shekel morning coffee has yet to kick in, I cannot help but notice the young African refugee opposite me, who cannot afford to treat herself to the same morning indulgence. One of thousands, she most probably trekked for months across the desert from Eritrea to Israel seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity. She heard of Israel’s reputation as a model of liberty, tolerance, and ingenuity. Since her arrival, she has been living with a 100 other immigrants in a filthy, decrepit, one-room apartment in … [Read more...]

Peoplehood Flows from Asking Big Questions

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Josh Feigelson I. Big Questions and Hard Questions “For whom are we responsible?” is a different question than “What does it mean to be responsible?” or “Do we have a responsibility to our particular heritage?” The latter questions are examples of what I’ve come to call Hard Questions: they matter to everyone, but they invite a response only from those who feel they have sufficient information or expertise to answer them. They are questions of definition, philosophy and categorization. They tend to lead to debates - about objective meanings, about policy. Ask one of these questions at a dinner table, and more likely than not, after a while, two … [Read more...]

What is Particular and What is Universal in the Jewish People?

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Joelle Fiss Does the Jewish people have distinct characteristics or are its traits universal? Where does the tension between its Particularism and Universalism lie? Raising the idea of “tension” hints at the need to accommodate a struggle between Jewish ethics and universal values. It’s an assumption that should be disputed. We will see why a little later. Beyond this philosophical debate, it’s possible to shed light on a social angle, to see if the modern Jewish experience can be compared to other groups. What set of circumstances are unique to the Jewish people? What parts of the Jewish experience are universally shared? It is the bond … [Read more...]

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Edward Rettig Sometimes it is important to discuss the basics, right and wrong. The Bible can be of great help. “Toward whom do we have responsibility?” is the heart of the first question posed to God by a human in the Biblical narrative. Cain asks it of God, so it is the murderer’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Overall, the Bible presents a gritty view of the killing of Abel. Murder resulted from jealousy. God “respected” Abel’s offering of the fruits of the ground. The Creator “had no respect” for Cain’s offering “of the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof.” God sought to guide Cain, to strengthen his ability to fight the … [Read more...]

Is ‘For Whom Are We Responsible’ the Right Question?

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 12 - For Whom Are We Responsible? - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] by Scott Aaron For whom are we responsible? There is a uniquely 21st century paradox hidden in this question, namely that for most of our history this question would have been heard simply as rhetorical amongst our people. For whom are we responsible? Ourselves, of course! The Sages clearly stated as far back as the 4th century C.E. in the Babylonian Talmud (Shavuot 39a), “all Israel is responsible for each other.” “All Israel” i.e. all Jews. After all, living in the Age of Faith as our ancestors did up until the onset of the Enlightenment in the 17th century, the common wisdom was that a particular god prioritized his own followers in terms of … [Read more...]