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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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Chapter 8: Holocaust: A Message for the Jews 117


c h a p t e r e i g h t Holocaust: A Message for the Jews Significance It is difficult to assess the relative status of the Holocaust as an event in the history of a long-suffering people such as the Jews. To this writer, as with many others of the generation that saw so many of their own loved ones destroyed in this horrific event, it was the greatest tragedy ever suffered by the Jewish people. Whether or not the outside world sees the Holocaust, as do so many Jews, as the most barba- rous event in human history, especially given the advanced cultural and historical conditions of the perpetrators, it is critical that the Jewish people learn truth from this horror. It is a fact that the state of Israel constitutes an admission, a confession by the international community. There is a powerful element of expiation here for its guilt in allowing the Holocaust to have occurred. And this has been a good, for Israel has taught the world how a nation can exist in liberty and democracy, even as it has been militarily attacked many times, its very existence threatened every day by terrorists. But there is an additional lesson for the Jewish people in general about the origins and perpetration of the Holocaust that must be learned. This is especially true for the Diaspora, since one suspects that the Israelis have learned this truth, at the least implicitly. In this chapter we shall elucidate...

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