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Reports of Jewish Left’s Death: Premature?

Our Comment of the Week

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(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book appropriate to his or her comment (if he or she emails me at mtracy@tabletmag.com with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner is “YoDoe” with a comment that is a column unto itself, which shows a remarkably perceptive and sensitive appreciation for the dialectic, particularly in Judaism. Writing about Adam Kirsch’s report that the Jewish Left is on its way out, YoDoe notes:

Jewish leftism is based in the memory of the lived cultural experience of Jews in poverty and deprived civil rights for hundreds of years. That’s what forms the soul of Jewish leftism. Rabbis were sometimes part of the oppressive structures that Jews were trying to escape. There is no appealing to them as the exclusive definition of what Jews ought to think to be authentic, although the case for appealing to them is considerably stronger than appeals to the prophets or the Torah. It’s what they thought about the Tanaq that matters, not what Tanaq says.

So even Rabbinic thought, which, unlike “the bible”, is the authentic philosophical expression of Judaism, is not necessarily the authentic expression of the cultural knowledge of the Jews as a people across historical time in recent centuries. It is that cultural experience which makes Jewish leftism authentic, and in it even the Rabbis are sometimes the problem and the oppressors, not the voices of authentic Jewishness. Arguably we can see that with blinding clarity in modern Israel.

YoDoe gets Elie Wiesel’s Rashi, because that’s some Talmudic stuff right there.

The End of the Jewish Left
Rashi [Nextbook Press]

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RonL says:

I other words, petulant and deracinated grievance politics. 

Phillip Cohen says:

As a far left leaning American Jew, I am still here.
My seven year old son, who attends a progressive secular Jewish school, where he learns about Jewish involvement in labor rights and a wide range of social justice movements, is here. He is here along with thousands of  Jewish children waiting for their turn. Many of the older students are already involved.

Jacob Arnon says:

The left can’t be taken seriously as long as there are leftist antisemites like this intellectual in positions of power:

An open letter to Johan Galtung: Peace-making and anti-Semitism can’t go together?

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/an-open-letter-to-johan-galtung-peace-making-and-anti-semitism-can-t-go-together-1.428974 

41953 says:

If, as YoDoe writes, ”….Rabbinic thought, which, unlike “the bible”, is the authentic philosophical expression of Judaism, is not necessarily the authentic expression of the cultural knowledge of the Jews as a people across historical time in recent centuries, ” then what is?????

I would love to hear from YoDoe on this subject.

YoDoe’s thought lacks  coherence, though I am sure that he/she has a high IQ. This demonstrates that something  other than elevated IQ is required for clarity of thought. That something is likely a will to know the truth to counter the ever present will to believe that which is comfortable or self affirming.

YoDoe said:

“Jewish leftism is based in the memory of the
lived cultural experience of Jews in poverty and deprived civil rights
for hundreds of years. That’s what forms the soul of Jewish leftism.”

My response:
Before the industrial revolution [everyone] was dirt poor. There was no middle class. There existed a small number of wealthy land owners and merchants, but 95% of the population had nothing. Virtually everyone lived and died within thirty miles of the place they were born.

There was no television, no radios, no CD players, or films. Since the population was illiterate they could not read whatever scarce print media was available.

No air conditioning, no indoor heating other than a wood burning stove, no running water, no flush toilets.

My point is:

Yes, the Jews were poor, but so were the gentile peasants who surrounded them.
As far as civil rights went, those legal rights are a modern invention. They did not exist for most of Western history.

YoDoe said:

“Rabbis were sometimes part of the oppressive structures that Jews were trying to escape.”

My response:

Sometimes?

The Rabbis exercised [total control] over Jewish communities. Their word was law. There was no democracy.

YoDoe said:

“It is that cultural experience which makes
Jewish leftism authentic, and in it even the Rabbis are sometimes the
problem and the oppressors, not the voices of authentic Jewishness.”

My response:

If poverty and the absents of civil rights was the common lot of humanity for most of its history, what then uniquely gave rise to Jewish leftism or “authentic Jewishness”?

The latter question was not answered by the writer.

So would I.

41953 says:

If you ask me, the alternative tradition is the one that challenges authority–the tradition of speaking truth to power beginning with Abraham bargaining with God to save innocent lives in Sodom and Gemorrah, Moses twice convincing God not to wipe out the Israelites, Nathan reprimanding David for sending Uraih off to be killed in battle so he could take Bathsheba for his wife and many other such examples.
Bennett
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Reports of Jewish Left’s Death: Premature?

Our Comment of the Week

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