Sammy Davis, Jr.(Sammy Davis Jr.)

The new Text/Context, which is published in a partnership between The Jewish Week and Nexbook Inc., dropped. The theme is how contemporary Judaism does (and doesn’t) accommodate converts as well as members with disabilities. Samuel G. Freedman has a fascinating essay that, using the example of Sammy Davis, Jr., proposes that the contemporary liberal American emphasis on cultural Judaism is misguided:

This secular/cultural definition of Jewish identity was perceived as being, for lack of a better word, liberal. The reason is that the alternative definition, one based in religious practice, was so easy to dismiss as conservative. What could be more exclusionary, after all, then all those rules and regulations and mitzvot? What was more retrograde than a Jewish life based on a never-ending tzitzit check?

But what if we were wrong and Sammy Davis Jr. was right? What if secular/cultural Jewish identity is the exclusionary sort and religious Jewish identity is the radically inclusive one?

Plus Tablet Magazine contributing editor Eddy Portnoy on Jewish tradition’s shameful tendency to ignore deaf Jews; Andrea Myers on how to approach Jews who have turned away from their faith; and much more.

Text/Context July 2011 [The Jewish Week]