The Big Ethnic Love-In

It’s not clear why. Some words just get picked up and bandied around in little proportion to their meaning. Take one from the mid 1990s, ‘stake holder society’. Coined by Will Hutton, it was supposed to be the Blairite big idea.  Once the New Labourites got down to the business of governing it turned out to be surplus to requirements.  Or take the Clintonian ‘triangulation’. Having now been revealed as signifying nothing other than the midpoint between whatever the political poles are at any one moment, its now been dropped from the lexicon.

A current buzzword amongst Jewish professionals is ‘peoplehood’. A strange word this, one absent from most dictionaries, and one seemingly invented by Jews, for Jews. A recent proponent of the term argued that the fact that it appears in no other cultures or languages (including Hebrew) ‘shows just how counter-cultural we are’. Or it just shows we’ve made up a stupid word.

So why is this word doing quite so well at the moment? Unsurprisingly, money has a lot to do with it. The Nadav foundation (‘advancing understanding of Jewish Peoplehood and a strengthening of the individual’s pride in being part of the Jewish Collective’) is giving substantial grants to organisations that run Jewish peoplehood themed programmes, whatever that entails

This explains the inclusion of a ‘new peoplehood track’ in the programme of the recently held Limmud UK conference. A whole host of events, panels, discussions etc, were slotted into the programme at very short notice when a grant became forthcoming. Participants could spot these by a cutesy logo of a Jewish family silhouette with a Star of David above their heads. Bless.

The sessions in said track showed the mix of quality one expects from Limmud, with some very interesting and some leading your head to sink deeper and deeper into your lap. But none could disguise the intellectual vacuity of the concept, and its utter shallowness was clearly evident. The nadir came in a supposedly high profile panel, in which David Saperstein, the respected head of the RAC (Reform Action Center) in America came up with the mind boggling statement ‘I have a dream’ (delusions of MLK here)’ that every Jewish child will go to sleep having listened to a Jewish song and played a Jewish video game’.

Sorry?   What kind of Yiddisher Stepford wives/ totalitarian dystopia is this? Is this what a few millennia of Judaism has come to? Frantic use of technology to try and guilt trip assimilated secular Jews into marrying in?  One might imagine Moses standing at the back of a Jewish Peoplehood classroom, struggling to understand how it has anything meaningful to do with Judaism, before being told by some (probably UJIA accredited) educator that, to maintain tribal loyalty above all else is the true meaning of the revelation at Sinai.

For this is the essence of Peoplehood theory, discarding all meaningful religious, linguistic, cultural, and philosophical elements, lest they offend anyone, Jewishness is reduced to a big ethnic love-in. Love your fellow Jew, the only mitzvah that remains. This is secular Judaism at is most extreme, devoid of the elements, such as the Yiddish language, or shared religious reference points, which 100 years ago made secular Judaism viable and dynamic. Jewish Peoplehood theorists take as their starting point the notion that the Jews are, in some mythic way, one people, despite the many linguistic, cultural and social barriers that separate us. From then they consider which elements can unite us, given this diversity. Religion is obviously out, given the vast gulf between the haredi and the ardently secular. Language fails to unite either, with Yiddish increasingly restricted to the Ultra-orthodox, and Hebrew hardly well spoken in the diaspora. Any gathering of European Jews immediately demonstrates the degree of linguistic separation. Culture? Jews have always had multiple cultures, dependent on geography, and this has only been disguised in modernity by the aggressive dominance of Ashkenazi culture, and the unwillingness of the state of Israel to allow the culture of its Sephardi immigrants to perpetuate judaeo-arabic culture. What about social justice/socialism, which motivated so many Jews at the turn of the last century, and was taken by liberal Jewish movements as the essence of Judaism? To the extent that this agenda has survived the embourgouisment of Western Jewry, this is now a diaspora phenomenon. In Israel, proud to be engage in realpolitik, viewing Jewish utopianism as deriving from the ‘ghetto mentality’, the tradition of centring Judaism around the ethics of the political left is virtually extinct. Social Justice Judaism is now an essentially American movement, and when its proponents turn their focus onto Israel, for example with ‘J Street’, the result shows the division rather than unity of the ‘Jewish people’. So what remains? Ultimately, we’re left with race, a (almost certainly illusory) common ethnic descent. Because to discuss race is somewhat unfashionable in polite company, terms like family (often the folksy mispocha) , common heritage or nation are used as synonyms. But make no mistake, in the absence of a genuine shared culture, religion, language, geography or philosophy, we are talking about a unity based on ethnicity, a community of race.

Despite claiming to be able to speak to the current Jewish reality, Peoplehood theory is intrinsically prescriptive rather than descriptive. It aims to return to a (perhaps somewhat imagined) more innocent age, located somewhere in the 1950s, where Jewishness was a warm club, seemed relatively homogenous and any dissent from mainstream narratives was kept firmly below the surface.  Behind Peoplehood’s shiny new façade lies an attempt to put many genies back in the box, those of intermarriage, of increased Jewish diversity and decreasing connection between Israel and diasporic communities. It is thus an agenda for reconstruction rather than renewal, to use Zalman Shachter Shalomi’s terminology, and a clue to its fearfulness is the fact that it is already moving towards dogma. Anita Shapira, of Tel Aviv University has accused Shlomo Sands (whose book ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ will given a full analysis on Jewdas at a later date) of ‘peoplehood denial’, a phrase evidently designed to ‘evoke’ holocaust denial’, and perhaps even suggest that the two are equally dangerous. This represents another, more sinister aspect to the peoplehood concept, its attempt to buttress the legitimacy of the Zionist project. Most Zionist thinkers maintain as central dogma that ‘every nation/people has the right to self-determination’ (whatever that means), and thus maintaining the notion of Jewish nation or people is necessary to ensure the survival of Israel as a state with a Jewish majority.

None of this is to suggest that all notions of ‘the Jewish people’ are nonsense. The term Am Yisrael, though probably originally meaning something closer to tribe or cultic sect rather than nation, is indeed an ancient term. Even if we accept the Shlomo Sands notion that Judaism is essentially a religion, other religions understood themselves as a coherent group, the Ummah for Islam, and Christendom for Christianity. The claim to Jewish peoplehood has always been mythic, rather than based on any empirical uniting features, but we can acknowledge that many practising Jews throughout history understood ‘am yisrael’ to be a meaningful concept, however they interpreted it. What is new, however, is the attempt to separate the notion of the Jewish people from all other elements of Judaism, and make it the sole focus. Traditional Judaism posits a triangle: God-Torah-Israel. Peoplehood eliminates two thirds of the triangle, surely leaving us with something approaching an idolising of race.  This Judaism without content eliminates halacha, aggadah, prayer, philosophy, rabbinic hermeneutics and personal and communal ethics, in the name of building a faux unity. One need not be ‘religious’ in order to appreciate this; a ‘secular’ Judaism can be equally content driven, by Yiddish song and literature, by the Ladino language, by the modern Jewish philosophical tradition, by a knowledge of Jewish history. Such content does indeed unify its practitioners, but focussing on an ‘object’ rather than ourselves, frees us of the narcissicism and exclusivity that otherwise occurs.

It is feared that a focus on particular content, such as modern Jewish philosophy, or the Yiddish language, will fail to connect us to the whole, will in fact detach us from our collective unity and belonging. It probably will. But this is inevitable; there is no unity to which we ought to be belonging, no essence that binds us all together. Judaism/Jewishness is without centre, diverse sets of cultures, practices and politics that are bound together only polemically in the service of particular ideological projects. But so what? Is that such a problem? From Mediaeval philosophers to Kabbalists, Jews have frequently been more attached to their particular ideologies and communities than to the ‘collective’. The strongest Jewish communities had the greatest diversity and argument, only the experience of 20th century hatred coupled with the fear of corrosive modernity has driven us to strive for an imagined unity.

A recognised trend, amongst certain Jewish commentators, is a shift away from focussing on peoplehood towards a focus on meaning. Perhaps there is something in this. It is arguably a North American phenomenon rather than a global one, and it is a move toward meanings in the plural rather than singular. And it is still an attempt to introduce a meta-narrative, to reinstate an essence to Judaism by the back door. But such a shift, if there is one, towards content(s) and meaning(s) does have a major advantage. When we next meet, for our big ethnic love-in, at least we’ll have something to talk about.

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12 thoughts on “The Big Ethnic Love-In”

  1. Ericthehalfajew

    I wonder who wrote this piece?? As someone tangentially involved with Limmud programming, I deny all allegations made in this column. Maybe.

    Furthermore … you are right. But it’s hardly a new thing?? Surely it’s the essence of Zionism?? What might be new is the current, totally un-self-conscious, irony-free attempt at renewal of the peoplehood thang, as if it’s some amazing new idea that hasn’t been around for 100 years and found to be somewhat wanting. (The man you want to read is Sharansky by the way, he’s with you all the way).

    Where do you get this idea of north Americans focusing on meaning?? I’m curious.

    I think, by the way, there is no particular reason to assume that a “peoplehood” focused Judaism is necessarily content-free. Surely, as with many national movements, the great cultural riches of the nation are celebrated, but it must be in the cause of the nation itself. That could be the same with Judaism – e.g. the creation of a rich Hebrew literature was an important cause for early Zionism, because they wished to create a culture worthy of the Jewish people.

    The important question is what is the underlying idea behind the people/culture/nation and there I think you are spot on …

  2. Im just a poor little jewish boy/toy/goy/delete as appropriate

    I have to confess, despite being fairly engaged with the Jewish world, I had not come accross the idea of Jewish Peoplehood before. Having read a paper by on the Nadav org’s website http://www.nadavfund.org.il/Peoplehood_Position_Paper.pdf, I agree that the term is pretty vacuous, and that the people who intellectually subscribe to it should be burned in gehane for longer than usual.

    However, most of your criticisms of it seem more generally a criticism of the concept of ‘the jewish people’. Consider:

    “Peoplehood theorists take as their starting point the notion that the Jews are, in some mythic way, one people”

    but that is also the standpoint of anyone who believes the concept that ‘Jewish people/am yisrael’ has any meaning in its modern sense, so more generally your arguments that follow on from that quote are arguments against the idea that there is a meaningful entity that is ‘the Jewish people’.

    As to whether there has to be something that binds all Jews together, or whether the differences that we have in common are greater than the similarities, to me anyway, that doesnot matter, as you point out there are any number of differences, and potentially very small similarities. The challenge, and the beauty of a concept like the Jewish people and why I find it relevant to myself is that it challenges anyone who seriously believes in it to work out what they have in common with the other jews, how they can find common ground with them, and what is the sense of responsibility they have towards them. It asks for a communal dialogue in a talmudic sense about how we relate to each other and the world.

    As to whether:

    “Jews have frequently been more attached to their particular ideologies and communities than to the ‘collective”

    attatchment and identity works at many different levels and even people who lived in a pre-post modern world were able to possess multiple identities without their heads exploding. Just becuase they were most attached to their local communtiy does not mean that they didnt also recognise and find meaning in the concept of the jewish people.

  3. In fact, almost all Jewish populations around the world *do* stem from the same people, the ancient Israelites. This is true of Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazic Jews, Italian Jews, Yemenite Jews, Iraqi Jews, Samaritans, Egyptian Karaites, Crimean Karaites, and more. They are all related to one another. DNA testing proves this, and Sand’s attempts to dismiss DNA evidence are flimsy and politically-driven. The evidence is catalogued in my book “The Jews of Khazaria” as well as online at Khazaria.com.

    It is therefore neither imaginary nor forced to refer to a Jewish people, which really should be called an Israelite people so we don’t have this confusion between the People of Israel and the religion of Judaism. Belonging to the People of Israel does not require adherence to a particular religious belief.

  4. Eric-glad that we agree, but just want to clarify what we’re agreeing on!

    When I argue that peoplehood theorists are forced to base Judaism on ethnicity I think that’s a wholly negative thing. It seems to me that arguments for unity based on race have been wholly discredited because a) of their necessarily exclusionist nature and massive potential for violence and b) because they are almost always factually wrong, no group is actually racially pure, including the Jews.

    So I argue that rather than race being the factor that unites the ‘Jewish people’, that there is no factor that unites the Jewish people, and we should stop trying to find one. There aren’t ‘cultural riches of the nation’, there are particular cultural artefacts produced at particular times by various diverse groups whose difference we have come to submerge under the umbrella terms ‘Jews’. I’m guessing that’s not what Sharansky thinks, but if he does I stand corrected!

    I’m Just a……, you say that you do believe in some way that Jews are one people. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this? It seems to be that such a statement is either theological (God gave the Jewish people a particular task and kept it together to deliver it) or racial (there is a distinct Jewish ethnicity). Do you subscribe to either approach?

    Personally I don’t find either of these attractive, and thus question why we need to use the notion of one people at all. If I like speaking Yiddish, I’ll hang out with people who also like speaking yiddish. If I like learning Talmud I’ll do likewise. This goes beyond Judaism, if I’m interested in English Folk music, I’ll meet other cognascenti, to sing, discuss, and learn about it. I’d never want to claim, that there was ‘one English folk community’ with a shared essence, just because we have a common interest.

    when you say: [peoplehood} challenges anyone who seriously believes in it to work out what they have in common with the other jews, how they can find common ground with them, and what is the sense of responsibility they have towards them

    Why only Jews? Surely we have multiple groups of people with whom we share common ground, based on many factors including interests, and we may feel a sense of responsibility towards all of them. The suggestion that we have a particular responsibility to Jews (or any group) is for me why nationalism is so problematic as a philosophy, and it makes a travesty of universalistic ethics, perhaps the greatest contribution of 20th Century Jews to the modern ethical project.

  5. Kevin, what about conversions and intermarriages? Surely you agree that many modern Jews are descendants of these? And how you can separate Judaism and ‘the Israelite people’? Surely they are totally intertwined! Before the 19th Century it was basically impossible to be a ‘Secular Jew’ or ‘Secular Israelite’.

  6. Correct, modern Jews are *partly* descendants of converted and intermarried people: Romans, Khazars, Slavs, Arabs, Chinese, and many more. This did not erase their common bonds. We aren’t talking about “race” when we say this. It doesn’t matter what skin color an Israelite has, so long as he or she has Israelite ancestry. There are some Americans of partly African-American heritage and partly Ashkenazic Jewish heritage and I consider them my brothers and sisters too. I feel the same about Jews from China who look like Han Chinese – they are partly descended from Persian Jews, and therefore belong to my people.

    The Israelite people existed before the royalty’s codification and imposition of the religions of Judaism and Samaritanism. Before Judaism, many Israelite people believed in multiple other gods. Israelite and Judaism are therefore not totally intertwined. Israelite secular culture includes the Hebrew language, Hebrew songs, Israeli cuisine, etc. There is no need to be religious to belong to this community.

  7. im just a ..............

    BT, in answer to your pointsThe sense in which I believe Jews are one people. I mean it in a philosophical/ideological/conceptual sense. I don’t know the best words to use to define it as I have not been asked to before. You could say I mean it in a theological sense, except I am an atheist. Which is precisely my point. Why does it make sense to say that I am a Jewish atheist. On your understanding it is either because of a theological reason or a racial reason. For me it is not either. It is just how I self identify myself – (not that I am an atheist, but that I am a Jew – I don’t feel that I form a community of atheists in any meaningful sense). You are asking me to provide a ‘rational’ reason other than self identity to tell you why I consider myself a jew, and part of a community of Jews, and you assume that this ‘rational’ reason (notice I use inverted commas) must be ethnic or theological, but for me, a ‘rational’ enough reason is that I self identify as a jew. That is why I am a jew.

    Part of my understanding of what it means to be a Jew is that there is some sort of commonality. I use the term ‘the jewish people’ as to me it is a meaningful historical concept, but if it sounds better to your ears, I could equally use the word community: I believe that Jews both historically, as an intellectual and cultural entity, form a community or repository of shared knowledge, meaning, understanding and practice, and also that this community is not historical, but also contemporary. Whether this forms an ‘essence’ or not, I don’t know, and unless you can explain to me why it would be objectionable for it to be an essence than I wont worry about it. Maybe you just have a problem with secular Judaism? I don’t know?

    But, I would like to turn the question round on you: I presume you consider yourself a Jew, or maybe you do not? But if there is no sense in a term like the Jewish people, why would you consider yourself a jew and identify yourself as a Jew what meaning does identifiying yourself as part of a collective have, unless all you identify Judaism as is a practice, and while respecting your understanding of Judaism, that is not how I understand what being Jewish is.

    In terms of exclusivity, this goes back to my comment about people with multiple identities and heads not exploding. Yes I am a Jew, and believe that I am part of a wider Jewish people in which concepts like responsibility are relevant, but I also identify myself as a person who lives in my local neighbourhood, lives in London, is British, and is a member of the wider human race in which concepts like responsibilities are just as relevant. Although I do prioritise my Judaism, I do not prioritise it over these other identities. I believe I have responsibilities with all these identities, each of these responsibilities manifests themselves in different ways, but I do not think it is wrong to explore my Jewish identity and the sense in which I am a Jew alongside these other identities.

    If you want to understand Jewish people hood as implying exclusivity, that is your choice. It is not how I understand things. The universal ethics you talk about are abstract entities, but who you are and the community of meaning you surround yourself within is a real thing, albeit you might say constructed, but it is real. The two do not exist on the same plane. You do not choose universal ethics over your own and your community’s lived experience of the world. Lived experience informs universal ethics and universal ethics informs your lived experience. But to just choose universal ethics would mean that you are a person without any historicy or ground and that is not possible for a human being.

  8. Thanks your for response, this is a very interesting discussion. I think our debate is far more subtle and nuanced than most debate around peoplehood, so the article has already served on of its aim. Several of the issues here really deserve posts of their own, so I’ll try to be relatively brief.

    Firstly, I think you begin by conflating two things, personal identity and the issue of being ‘one people’. I have never said that for you to define yourself as a Jew is illegitimate. I strongly believe in the individuals right to self define as they wish, this is of course personal and subjective. To claim that there is a unified ‘Jewish people’ however, is a factual claim rather than an subjective one, and one that has ramifications in the world. Zionism derives part of its legitimacy from the claim that there is a Jewish nation, one that then deserves its own state. Even in the diaspora, the discourse surrounding ‘marrying out’ comes from a supposition that the Jewish peoplehood would be weakened by such exogamy. So unlike personal identity, the meta-narrative of Jewish peoplehood has real consequences, and for this reasons needs to be justified with reference to rationality. You, I think concede that your belief in Jewish Peoplehood is essentially a theological one, despite the fact that you are an atheist. This is the heart of the matter. So called ‘secular Judaism is frequently extremely religious, but instead of believing in a deity it deifies (at least some of) the land of Israel, the Jewish people, ‘Jewish genius’, Jewish culture or Jewish peoplehood. Why do so many Jews think that there is an essential, ahistorical Jewish people? Because the Hebrew bible says so. Jews who are prepared to ignore all that the Torah says about God uphold all that it says about the People (and sometimes Land) of Israel.

    On your second point, I believe the following passage, by Michael Satlow, in his book: Creating Judaism, History, Tradition, Practice, sums up my position. The passage deals with Jewish history but is equally applicable to the notion of one people:

    ‘Judaism has no genes; it is the creation and recreation of human beings working in history. Each community of Jews creates its Judaism anew, reading and understanding their traditions through their own peculiar and historically specific worldviews. Judaism, then, has no history. Jewish communities have local history….and some patterns of thought and tradition have intellectual histories. Because Judaism, however is not a single phenomenon that can be captured in a single, predominant narrative, it is misleading to talk of the ‘history of Judaism’. Judaism, as a whole, does not have a story; any master narrative obscures the dynamic process by which communities continually reinvent their Judaism.’

    On the issue of essentialism, I am using the standard essentialist vs constructivist dichotomy, one that has been made commonplace by post structuralism and cultural studies. The basic critique of essentialism is that it generalises falsely, positing a phenomenon that is unified, homogeneous and ahistorical when the object in question is diverse, heterogeneous and temporally specific. So while an essentialist view of, say femininity, would see it as fixed and static, deriving organically from biological difference, a constructivist approach would point out the vast diversity in women’s experience, historically, geographically and economically, and argue that our understanding of femininity is always shaped by these different contexts. If such a critique can be made on grounds of gender, where feminists (excepting Butler) agree that sex is somewhat essential even where gender is not, how much more so can it be made for Judaism, with all its massive diversity, as partly outlined in the article. You offer the alternate description of Judaism as a community or repository of shared knowledge, meaning, understanding and practice and I strongly prefer this (though I would amend it to communitieS and meaningS), allowing as it does for change, diversity and variation. Such an approach, in my understanding, is the very opposite of an ahistorical essence.

    As to your question, yes I do call myself a Jew. I call myself other things as well, Socialist, British, Londoner. Without creating linguistic labels any meaningful discourse would be impossible. But just as we use these terms we should be critiquing and deconstructing them. My calling myself a Jew is not a simple matter, nor is me calling myself British. If I was to elaborate, some days I am more a Jew than others, more inclined to play in the ballpool of Jewish customs and traditions as I have inherited them. Some Jewish practices I think are inspired, some are think are pretty banal.

    I do understand Judaism as largely a set of practices and texts that we engage with and can build community around. I acknowledge that this understanding is particular, that many Jews have understood their Judaism as wholly religious or wholly ethnic. I am arguing that from my standpoint, Judaism as practice, open to all that wish to engage with it is a healthy way forward, rather than essentialisations and meta-narratives that make us feel like we are pawns trapped in a theological march through history.

  9. Im just a diverse heterogeneous person

    BT, you are right, I do conflate personal identity and peoplehood (let me use this term as referring to the Jewish People rather than in the Nadav orgs sense). I do this deliberately, because for me being part of the Jewish people/peoples, community/communities, history/histories is how I self identify as a Jew. Seeing as you are trying to critique or even argue against the legitimacy of the idea of Jewish people/peoplehood, I see it more generally as a criticism of my right to self define in this way. That is why I conflate the two issues. To critique the legitimacy of the idea of the Jewish People is to critique how I self identify. The two are not separable for me.

    Some diversionary points to make before I turn to the main substance of my response: Your argument that secular Judaism is frequently religious I find for someone who emphasises diversity and narratives, I find to be an over generalisation. I am not a secular Jew because of a religious type feeling or belief, however secular that belief might be, but because I find Judaism meaningful to myself. There are rational reasons for this (bearing in mind the word rational has two meanings: ie. something that is explicable and something that makes logical sense. With your post structuralist background, I am sure you can see the potential problems with the second sense of rationality). My point is that there is a big difference between secular religiousness and secular people who find meaning in certain practices, institutions, concepts and so forth. That is why I resisted using your label ‘theological’ and I should point out that my views are no more theological than yours about Judaism being comprised of communities of meanings, seeing as we pretty much hold the same views.

    About whether the claim that the Jewish people is a factual one or a subjective one. It seems to me that the Jewish People is a factual entity, in that I and many others define ourselves as being part of a Jewish People. The issue is not whether the Jewish People exist, but the nature of this existence and its legitimacy.

    Anyway, back to the main substance: I do not hold there to be an essential or ahistorical Jewish people. As you noted, my understanding of Jewish Peoplehood, is basically acceptable to you as a constructivist as long as community is also understood as communities and meaning is also understood as meanings. Your amending of my definition assumes that I do not understand ‘community’ to include ‘change, diversity and variation,’ which most definitely I do.

    On your definitions of essentialism vs constructivism, I would be a constructivst, albeit one who posits the concept of the Jewish People as a meaningful and legitimate entity. Essentially there is a triangle occurring. There are two constructivist positions – you, a constructivist that does not hold the concept of the Jewish People to be meaningful, and myself a constructivist who does. There is also a third position of the triangle, an essentialist one, which you wrote your original article about: that of ‘the Jewish People essentialist’.

    My point is not to defend an essentialist understanding of Jewish People/hood, but to argue that Jewish People/hood can be understood in constructivist terms. To be honest, I don’t properly recognise or understand the attributing of essentialism to the people and things you are attributing them to. For instance, you argue that Jews, even secular Jews argue that there is an essential ahistorical people. I am not denying that some people have these banal one dimension essentialist understandings of Judaism. I am just saying I don’t see these people around very often. On the one hand I worry that you are attacking a straw man. On the other hand I worry that you are extrapolating these arguments from marginal, inconsequential voices within Judaism. But most importantly, I don’t think you recognise the heterogeneity and nuance of views within the community you are attacking. As an example, Zionism has always been much more nuanced than simply claiming to be an ethnic nationalism. As you said these are complex and nuanced issues, and I would really have to understand more properly where you are coming from to properly debate the sense in which the Jewish Community as a whole holds essentialist views.

    But anyway, to finish off, you argue against an understanding of the Jewish People/Judaism that is ‘unified, homogeneous and ahistorical’ but rather is, ‘diverse, heterogeneous and temporally specific.’ That is exactly what I understand the Jewish People to be, and would like it to be. I just understand this desire in terms of fighting to preserve the diversity and hetrogenity of the Jewish people. We are both trying to reclaim a term – Judaism – I am just saying that in order to do that you have to reclaim the people that the term relates to, and to me, that is what being a part of the Jewish People involves.

  10. I think I’m going to write another post to continue this debate, rather than doing it in the comment thread. Clearly there’s more to say about the whole essentialism concept. I shall try to pull it back to more concrete issues, where I think, it will become clear that I am certainly not attacking a straw man. I think essentialisation is a big problem in the Jewish community, and getting beyond it is potentially very liberating. Till then, good debate -thanks!

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