Challenging the Status Quo

NewVoices, the often controversial student magazine, has released its’ newest issue – The New Voices Money Issue, How has wealth affected Jewish culture?

Here’s an excerpt from an opinion piece by NewVoices editor, Josh Nathan-Kazis:

“We at New Voices may be skeptical of the Jewish community, but we’re not nihilists. It’s not important that every aspect of the Jewish community be preserved as it was in 2008. It is important, however, that there be a Jewish community in 2030. As American Jewry reorganizes in the face of new economic realities, how can we ensure that it no longer functions as an extension of Jewish wealth?

At the January 15th YIVO panel, Princeton professor and Dissent editor Michael Walzer half-jokingly suggested that Jews should reinstate the sumptuary laws of the medieval European ghettos, the often self-imposed rules that regulated ostentation within the community. That’s one option.

The alternative is less amusing, but perhaps more levelheaded. We got this way by ceding leadership to the community’s major philanthropists. If we take it back, we can diminish the influence of the most affluent on our values and our priorities. The means to such a coup are unclear. It will require passionate involvement in Jewish communal politics on the part of a generation of young people who, understandably, find the community deeply boring and hopelessly lame. Our challenge is to convince our disillusioned friends that the way to fight the materialism and ostentation that they find so distasteful is to care enough to fearlessly challenge the Jewish status quo.

Businessmen, bankers, and big-shot lawyers will always be an important part of American Jewry, and rightly so. But to allow the wealthiest to define our community is a dangerous mistake. Let’s hope we can muster the willpower to correct it.”