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Judaism’s Promise, Meeting the Challenge of Modernity

Seymour W. Itzkoff

Judaism’s Promise, Meeting The Challenge Of Modernity follows Seymour W. Itzkoff’s well-received three-book series, Who Are the Jews? Judaism’s Promise, confronts the many revolutions that have reshaped Judaism over the centuries allowing it and its people a path of leadership into the modern world. It takes the writings of the Torah, Holy Scriptures, and Talmud seriously as exemplars of the human search for civilizational and moral intellectuality. The book’s basic concern is with the withering of Judaism as a force in contemporary Western civilization.
Sadly millions of Jews have left the faith. Others venture forth only hesitantly into a synagogue, now a bastion of fossilized ritual and conspicuous consumption. These millions needed more from the orthodoxy, and this book attempts to show them the way back by giving renewed life to the heritages of Judaism, and, consequently, to its meaning for the modern world. Judaism’s Promise argues for a return to the synagogue’s originating Hellenistic commitment «to come together» in intellectual and moral study. As Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan argued, Judaism must once more become in the 20–21st century the civilization that it once represented to the wider world, and not a fossilized ceremonialism.

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Introduction ix

Extract

Introduction Our Concern Judaism and the Jews are gradually disappearing. Take a look at the comparative numbers of Jews and other religionists and you will understand my meaning. Few Jews even whisper about this looming demographic and civilizational disaster. Why? Simply, fatalism. What you will read in the pages and chapters that follow is an argument by a dissident Jew who does not accept this fatalism. In front of everyone’s eyes, the message is that Judaism is an ancient fossilized tradition, irrelevant to the world except for a nation, Israel. This is wrong. Israel does profess to be a Jewish state, modern and progressive. But Israel itself at the least faces the same demographic tidal wave that may efface Diaspora Judaism. Demography is not necessarily des- tiny. I here want to argue against this dismal determinism. Much of this book delves into the historic achievements of the Jews. In order to explore the possibilities for the renewal of Judaism you must understand its past, and why it has for so long survived so much malignant opposition. This is important because the truly heroic adaptability to change amidst the threats inherent in these events is hidden to students of Jewish history. Why, because of the control of Jewish education by those who want to preserve their powers of domination, the doorkeep- ers of contemporary Judaism. These consecrated ones are destroying Judaism today. Itzkoff_Book.indb 9 23/10/12 5:42 PM x | judaism’s promise, meeting the challenge of modernity If you can truly...

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