Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts
Volume 11, Numbers 1-2 (Spring 5759/1999)
"Religion in the Public Square: Within the Jewish People"
REEXAMINING THE ISSUE OF RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE
Daniel J. Elazar
An increasingly prominent characteristic of our time is the need to reexamine the issue of religion in the public square. The modern synthesis separating church and state and thereby excluding the institutions of religion from the public square, even while allowing the spirit of religion to help shape the public life of various countries, has come unraveled in the face of postmodern changes. These changes include the rise of neopaganism, which has meant that the principles of separation are applied exclusively to the monotheistic religions while pagan religions can penetrate the public square in the guise of folklore and multiculturalism, coupled with a growing felt need to feel that religion, particularly the monotheistic religions, have something important to contribute to resolving the issues of the day and cannot fairly be excluded. The issue is particularly joined around matters of public morality. As a result, we find ourselves confronted with the issue whether we like it or not, as fundamentalist religions have moved to assert themselves in the public square. Hence, it behooves us to find new ways and means for religion to play its role in public life without sacrificing the democratic benefits of church-state separation. One of the ways to do so in a manner compatible with democracy is by emphasizing the covenantal basis of both religion and democratic republicanism. It would be equally useful to distinguish between federal liberty established by covenant and natural liberty and to pursue the former.
IDENTITIES, PLURALISM, AND
A PRAGMATIC PERSPECTIVE ON
THE JEWISH PUBLIC SQUARE
Strengthening Jewish identity in Israel and the diaspora are different challenges, requiring dissimilar approaches. In the diaspora, the continued development of a category of "sociological" Jews alongside halakhic Jews seems unavoidable. Increasing mixed marriages are the dominant factor at its base.
Fostering a multitude of Jewish identities is most relevant in retaining as many Jews as possible for the Jewish people in the diaspora. This "buffet" approach, with a large menu of Jewish activities, is not only a matter of values but also a pragmatic one: in order to stand up to the enemies of the Jewish people, not only quality but also numbers count.
In an individualistic society, it is the consolidated core which provides the individualists with the opportunity to be both individualistic and - when in psychological need - to be able to "belong." The average Israeli Jew will have much more influence on the future of the Jewish people than the average diaspora Jew. The attitude of the Orthodox, traditional and Zionist Jews in Israel toward the diaspora will be much more determinant in Israel's policies than that of indifferent or post-Zionist Israelis.
HOW DO THE ISSUES IN THE
RELATE TO ISRAEL?
Daniel J. Elazar
The present controversy over non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism in Israel is a serious flashpoint in Israel-diasporaa relations, particularly in relations between Israel and U.S. Jewry. For Israelis, on the other hand, it is a secondary issue even for those concerned about the power of the ultra-Orthodox in the Jewish state. This is partly because very few Israelis are affected by the conversion issue. Even those families of Russian Jewish olim that contain non-Jewish members have not shown great interest because most have not shown real interest in conversion to Judaism in any form. The issue is further neutralized by the very different understanding of Judaism held by Israeli Jews in contrast to American Jews. Finally, although the problem today is a real one because of the great growth of the issue among diaspora Jews, in Israel it is altogether a new issue since the Conservative and Reform Jewish presence is not only minuscule but relatively recent since the Six-Day War. Given all of this, the proposals of the Neeman Commission to resolve the problem have much to recommend themselves, even if they do have the character of squaring circles. This is not without precedent since the Zionist enterprise from its first has involved the critical squaring of circles at important junctures, despite the perceived incompatibility of the positions of different sides. There is no reason why a similar effort should not work in connection with the conversion issue.
VIRTUAL REALITY COMES TO CANADIAN JEWRY: THE CASE OF THE CANADIAN JEWISH CONGRESS PLENARY
This article deals with the issue of the changing nature of the "public square" of contemporary Jewry through an account of the Canadian Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1998. The CJC Plenary has historically been, par excellence, Canadian Jewry's "public square." The program of the 1998 Plenary differed from that of previous Plenaries in that a major portion of the event's schedule was shifted from "traditional" activities, such as speeches and resolutions, to a "talk show" format of sessions on issues of contemporary Jewish concern. This major shift in format raises questions - most particularly that of the control of public discourse in the Jewish polity.
JUDAISM AND ORGANIZED JEWISH MOVEMENTS IN THE USSR/CIS AFTER WORLD WAR II: THE UKRAINIAN CASE
After the decades of discrimination against organized Jewish life in the Soviet Union, the present period shows creation and rapid development of Jewish national organizations and institutional infrastructure of Jewish communities in most of the post-Soviet states, including Ukraine. At the same time, there is an evident contradiction between an intensive "Jewish politics" within the community and wide representation of Jews among the local elite, on one hand, and a very poor representation of the Jewish population as an institutionalized ethnic group in the state political arena. The reason for this is found in the history of Jewish life in Soviet Ukraine after World War II, including the experience of the creation and existence of legal (state-sponsored), illegal (underground national and human rights organizations), and quasi-legal (religious communities) Jewish social institutions in a hostile social and political environment.
THE POLITICAL ROLE OF THE
ISRAELI CHIEF RABBINATE IN THE TEMPLE MOUNT QUESTION
The capture by Israel of the Temple Mount in 1967 opened a Pandora's box of questions for religious authorities. These ranged from whether to rebuild the Temple and reinstitute the sacrificial service to whether to allow Jews to ascend the Temple Mount to pray. The official Israeli Chief Rabbinate adopted a mostly conservative stance toward the new circumstances created. Halakhic factors interplayed with governmental pressure to avoid hostile reactions from the Muslim world. This article examines the approaches of successive chief rabbis to the Temple Mount question, the discussions within the Chief Rabbinate Council, and the social and political contexts in which decisions have been made.
CAN ORTHODOXY SHARE
THE PUBLIC SQUARE?
This essay analyzes whether Orthodoxy must perceive competing streams of Judaism as illegitimate in order to remain Orthodox and whether or not the public square in Israel can be reconfigured so as to make it possible for competing ideological groupings to work together.
Because of its acceptance of "Maimonidean" - strictly dogmatic - conceptions of what it means to be a Jew contemporary Orthodoxy refuses to cooperate with non-Orthodoxy, holds that it cannot do anything that might be construed as recognizing the Jewish legitimacy of non-Orthodoxy, and thinks that it cannot in good conscience share the public square with other streams in Judaism.
This essay sketches a way in which Orthodox Jews can relate to non-Orthodox Jews and their understandings of Judaism which lets go of the language of "legitimate vs. heretical" without, at the same time, adopting a pluralist position which sees all (or almost all) expressions of Judaism as equally acceptable.