I was a superb conversation with a good friend about Tisha B’av on Twitter today, and we got around (as we normally do) to what we have been reading. He asked me if I had read a book that takes a dire view of assimilation among American Jews, suggesting that it portends the end of the Tribe.
I tire of the procession of modern-day Cassandras who see assimilation as the greatest problem facing Judaism today. There are surely others, not least of which are the way we often treat and speak of each other, that threaten our future more, that work against the will of Hashem, and that play a part in setting Jews onto the path of apostasy.
The highly pessimistic view of the faith with which many of us were raised, the view that also rejected out-of-hand the gifts of Rabbinic Judaism, is both incorrect and unnecessary. The Green Shoots of Judaism have in the past two decades begun to outnumber the wilted branches.
Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, known popularly as the Ba’al Shem Tov, was right about many things, but what he was most correct about was his imprecation to all of us to celebrate our faith, not mourn it. Tisha B’Av is a day to remind ourselves of the calamities in our past, but we must conclude it determined to build a better future.
Adam Daniel Mezei asks via Twitter:
What’s your read on the connections between Chinese and Jews. Beyond obvious factors, what do you think our connections are?
After wondering aloud if I could answer that in 140 characters, I though about it and gave him this precis of an answer.
I think Chinese and Jews look each other in the eye and see something comforting and familiar. It comes not necessarily from a shared set of values, but of common experience: each is the ancient and seminal culture of a civilization, has endured unspeakable hardship/persecution, and each has emerged from the crucible of history with great depth beneath the hardened exterior shared by all survivors.
Therein, I believe, lies the heart of the mutual respect and admiration – and in my household affection – between the two great cultures.
- Chinese prof devotes life to study of Jewish ‘soulmates’ (life.nationalpost.com)