Zionism awakens Judaism for American Jews

Clip from Judaism 3.0 Unveiling – January 12, 2022


Q: In terms of trends within America, you see in particularly among Jews under the age of 40, by far the fastest growing element is Jews of no religion, and at the same time, the Reform Movement is begrudgingly Zionist, mostly because of the old Guard. The Conservative movement has largely imploded. What I like to know is your take on this: Is leaving Judaism connected with difficulty of Zionism, or is there is leaving of Zionism connected with Judaism, or the two are independent?

Gol Kalev: Judaism in America is a relatively new thing – 120 years or so. About 90-95% of the Jews came to America since the beginning of the 20th century. When they came they were part of the Jewish nation-religion. Most of the Jews who came in the big migration of the early 20th Century – in the beginning they kept both their national aspect of Judaism and their religious aspect of Judaism, but over times they didn’t.

American Jews invented something new that did not exist before – a new stream of religion – Judaism without Judea. The idea that you reduce Judaism to a religion was new.

It was born in Western Europe in the 19th Century, but only effected a very small part of the Jewish world, because most Jews lived in insular communities – very much part of the Jewish nation-religion. It went viral when Jews came to America. This de-nationalization of Judaism is something that we never had in Judaism.

That could have worked – reducing Judaism to the Jewish Church – if the Jews stayed religious in one way or another. But what happened concurrently was a mass secularization of American Jews. America Jews are perceives by many to be one of the flag-carriers of secularism in America.

So when an American Jew says I’m a person of no religion, or a person of Jewish heritage of no religion, it underscores this point. You are evaporating. American Judaism is evaporating, just like Irish and Italians and others that came to American around the same time.

The glue of ethnological national affiliation is gone, and the glue of religiosity is gone. Now, American Jews did not evaporate in the 20th Century because there were two temporary glues which were very strong: the memory of the Holocaust and the connection to the Eastern European Shtetl culture – Fidler on the roof, Bagel & Lox. That was strong when the survivors generation was alive and the Jewish grandmothers were around.

Today the 20-year-old that you are talking about – his grandmother was born in America, after the Holocaust. His grandmother is an American grandmother -just like the grandmother of the Irish and the Italian. It is not the Jewish grandmother that we like to think of from the movies.

So there is not a lot left of what connect the Jews to Judaism. But here comes Zionism which is almost like the magic bullet.

Herzl said that you know the power of the ideal when you can not be neutral to it – you can be for it, you can be against it, but you have to react to it. And that is exactly what Zionism is for many of the young American Jews that you describe.

We saw last May when we had the conflict here in Gaza. You had a lot of people, including my American Jewish friends, write facebook posts, “As a Jew, I’m embarrassed about Israel”, “As a Jew, this is horrible….”. “As a Jew”! They never write “As a Jew, this Shabbat the Parssha this”, or “As I Jew, I’m eating Pastrami sandwich and not Brisket”.

There is no “As a Jew” anymore except to when it come to Zionism.

So Zionism is the aspect of Judaism that awakens Judaism in the American Jew.

If your name is Goldberg or a Jewish last name, and you walk on a college campus somebody is going to come to you and say “your people are murdering the Palestinians”.

You have to react to it – it forces you in – even if you are completely disaffiliated from your Judaism. It’s dating back to the Herzl point that you can not escape Judaism – you can say “no, they are not”, or you can say ” I agreed”, but you can’t stay neutral.

Zionism is what draws you into your Judaism.

That is what I show in the book, and that is why it is becoming the most relevant aspect of Judaism.

More from the January 12 Pre-launch unveiling party: Press Release

For more information about the book: judaism-zionism.com

For inquiries: info@judaism-zionism.com

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