Amb. Michael Oren and Gol Kalev discuss Judaism 3.0
“I read this book several times. It is very engaging, but I am left with several questions. The first is: why”, Michael Oren framed the conversation, why stay Jewish?
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Kalev argued that the question of why is not as important, since it is the outside world that defines the Jews – historically and today, and that outside world relates to Jews in a national context. Jews are associated with Israel whether they like it or not.
The event hosted by TLV International Salon and moderated by journalist Shanna Fuld was held in the historical Social Space (Coliseum) in Tel Aviv.
Oren agreed with the book’s premise that Zionism is becoming the primary conduit to one’s Judaism, whether in positive or negative, saying that in the past the Reform movement used pro-Israel sentiment to rally support for its movement. Now they use anti-Israel sentiment to harness support for liberal Judaism.
This, he argued, leads to a syllogism: The broadly accepted IRA definition of anti-Semitism includes singling Israel out for unique condemnations that you would not give to any other country. Therefore CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post singling out Israel for unique treatment, such as in blaming it for the tragic death of a journalist – one of 2,700 journalist killed in battle since 1990 – is by definition anti-Semitic and contributes to the systematic delegitimization of the Jewish state.
That type of delegitimization then comes back and contributes to anti-Semitism attacks against American Jews, Oren said, noting that about 60-80% of such attacks are now Israel-related. “But American Jewish leaders in charge of fighting anti-Semitism disagree with me profoundly, almost violently…To my mind, this is pure blindness”.
Kalev said that such American Jewish leaders are obsessed with the threat of yesterday – a common mistake organizations, governments and individuals make, which can be fatal. Anti-Semitism is no longer an existential threat to Judaism, Kalev argues. It is a threat to individual Jews but not to Jewish continuity. Israel-bashing is an existential threat to Judaism and to all Jews, including those who bash Israel. This is because it has both a retail populous component that is dogmatic, and an institutional destruction mechanism, such as through the International Criminal Court which is in the midst of a broad investigation targeting nearly all Israelis for war crimes – soldiers, settlers. Israel-bashing is the vehicle for the destruction of Judaism. Therefore, it is indeed blindness when such American Jewish leaders say they have zero tolerance to traditional anti-Semitism, but ample tolerance to Israel-bashing.
Oren underscored that whether American Jews like or not, Israel is going to impact them; “They can say I have nothing to do with Israel, I can’t stand the place, but when they become victims of anti-Semitism it is because it is fueled by anti-Zionism. Therefore anti-Zionism reminds the America Jew: Guess what – you are Jewish”
Kalev said that given the magnitude and social-acceptability of the Israel-bashing movement, a radical approach is needed – a shift in global consciousness of what is Judaism. Israel-bashers must stay in Judaism 2.0. If you accept the argument in the book, as Michael does, that Judaism has transformed and Zionism is now its anchor, than Israel-bashing becomes Jew-bashing, and that is a position the attackers do not want to be in. This alters the nature of our time’s existential threat.
Kalev encouraged the audience to be ambassadors of this message, pointing to the broad following the book has amongst progressives, conservatives, Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The event which started with an Israeli wine reception, continued long after the program, with informal Q&A, book-signing and discussion.
Michael Oren is former Israel’s ambassador to the United States and former Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister office. A historian, he is the author of numerous books including the New York Times best-seller Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide. The Forward named Oren one of the five most influential American Jews and The Jerusalem Post listed him as one of the world’s ten most influential Jews. He wrote about Judaism 3.0: “Gol Kalev has written a courageous, compelling, and thoughtful thesis that must be part of any serious discussion of the future of Israel and the Jewish people.”
About Judaism 3.0: In this landmark book, Gol Kalev demonstrates how Zionism has turned into the organizing principle of Judaism. Analyzing long-term shifts in Israel, Diaspora Judaism as well as global trends that impact the state of Judaism, Kalev shows how Zionism has become the primary conduit through which both Jews and non-Jews relate to Judaism – in the positive and negative alike. More
Tel Aviv International Salon hosts influential speakers addressing young professionals in Tel Aviv. Recent speakers included former prime minister Naftali Bennet, former prime minister Ehud Barak, and US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides
Watch Amb. Michael Oren and Gol Kalev discuss Judaism 3.0:
“This book should play an important role in the discussions about the future of world Jewry and its relations with Israel.”
Natan Sharansky, former Chairman of The Jewish Agency, former Deputy Prime Minister of Israel
ייA remarkable ideas book that is about much more than the state of Judaism….One of the most important books about Judaism, Zionism and global trends of our times.”
Catherine Carlton, former Mayor of Menlo Park, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur
“Gol Kalev does not just know Theodor Herzl – he lives and breathes Theodor Herzl…This book should trigger the conversation the Jewish community needs about Israel, Zionism, Judaism and Identity. Bravo! “
Professor Gil Troy, author – The Zionist Ideas
“Gol Kalev’s book has the merit to transform the very essence of the State of Israel to becoming an objective expression of Jewish identity“
Dr. Georges Yitzhak Weisz, author – Theodor Herzl: A New Reading
“A courageous, compelling, and thoughtful thesis that must be part of any serious discussion of the future of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Michael Oren, historian, former Ambassador of Israel to the United States
“Gol Kalev has a deep understanding of Herzl and of processes happening in the Jewish world and non-Jewish world. He puts these two together and describes in his book how both Jews and non-Jews relate to Judaism now through Zionism – exactly as Herzl described in his vision.“
Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman – World Zionist Organization, acting Chairman – Jewish Agency
“Kalev picks up where Herzl left off……A must read for people of all religious and political backgrounds who want to get a deeper understanding of the state of Zionism and Judaism today.”
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem
The book was selected by the Jerusalem Report as the cover of its 2022 New Year Magazine
Watch Gol Kalev discuss Judaism 3.0 with Emily Frances on i24
Book’s website: Judaism-Zionism.com