During the first night of the J Street conference, when delegates were just getting settled, a half dozen speakers — activists, rabbis and students — unexpectedly poured their hearts out. The 1,500 people in the hall, the speakers insisted, were not only gathered to represent the majority of American Jews who think US policy should put its weight behind bringing about a two-state solution. We were gathered also to redeem “Jewish values”. You heard a good deal of the phrase “Tikkun Olam”, the repair of the world, that night. And I confess to cringing at times. Was social improvement a peculiarly Jewish desire? Could Tikkun Olam, a kabalistic concept turned into a leftist cliché, cancel out the fact that the Occupation is advanced by zealots of Jewish law, or that rightist, neoconservative ideas are particularly strong (so polls show) among the quarter of American Jews who attend synagogue at least once a month?So, Avishai has established that Tikkun Olam is a very misused concept that has nothing to do with what leftist Jews claim it means, and that committed Jews tend towards the political right. But J-Street is an avowedly Jewish group, and it is a bit hard to jive these facts together.
What is a good leftist Jew who hates the trappings of religion but wants to use it as a cover for his ideas to do?
Why, just as he redefines Tikkun Olam to fit his preconceived notions, he redefines Judaism itself!
See how easy it is? Just tell everyone who disagrees with you that they are not practicing Judaism, because you have changed Judaism from a religion and a belief system that has lasted quite well for a few thousand years into a squishy, sunny reflection of your own personality! Not only that, the Jews who did manage to hold on to the beliefs of their forefathers - Jews who hold on to the idea of living and dying for the land that they have cried over for millennia - are worshipping idols!
The phrase “Jewish values”, you see, makes sense only to people who assume a world of free will. You have to believe that, generally, people have intellectual personality, individual sovereignty, and moral erudition — that more sacred than the Book is the right to interpret books. ...
So if Jews can be said to have stood for anything traditionally, was it not this allergy to dogma — this breaking of idols? Did we not see the democratic rights as, well, commanded? And, tragically, have not the land of Israel and Jewish military power themselves become idols for American Jews since 1967 — or at least for leaders who spoke for the “community”, while liberals remained aloof from its parochialism? Anyway, J Street says, “No more.”
Voila, abracadabra, presto-change-o: J-Street is a new religion, and traditional Judaism is avoda zara!