Exploring the meaning of Jewish Peoplehood

Peoplehood-LFor much of the last century, the concept of Jewish Peoplehood has served to unify Jews throughout the globe, be they religious or secular, in Israel or the Diaspora. The idea has connected Jews with very different religious practices and ideological perspectives. The current moment, however, brings new questions to the notion of Jewish Peoplehood. In today’s rapidly changing, racially diverse and multicultural Jewish communities, and with many Jews choosing Jewishness, can an idea that fit the needs of the Jews of the 20th century still serve to unify, inspire, or even define Jews in the 21st century? If not, what other expressions of Jewish unity might take its place?

Luminaries from the fields of academia, Jewish communal life, philanthropy, the arts and the media will converge in Philadelphia today to address these questions in a groundbreaking conference.

Wrestling with Jewish Peoplehood” is being organized by the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History and the Department of Jewish Studies of McGill University. It is being hosted by the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Prominent thinkers and activists such as Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., journalist Peter Beinart, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum as well as Forward editor Jane Eisner, John Ruskay, Frank London, April Baskin, Shaul Magid, Ph.D,  and Deborah Dash Moore, Ph.D., will address the issue of peoplehood through the lenses of theology, sociology, history, politics, fundraising and the arts. Among the topics that will be discussed are: to what extent is the term Peoplehood inclusive and exclusive, the role of Israel and Zionism in understanding Jewish peoplehood, global perspectives on peoplehood, and the degree to which dissent and disagreement exist without splintering the group. They will also ask whether it is possible for a new set of values and beliefs to give the Peoplehood concept renewed meaning.