A leading rabbi argues that only a proud American Jewry, knowledgeable about its faith and history, can offer a corrective, even subversive force to American culture.
Gordis, vice president of the University of Judaism and dean of its rabbinic school, continues in the "Why Be Jewish?" theme of his God Was Not in the Fire (1995), with emphasis this time on cultural insights gained from Jewish holidays. Hanukkah is rescued from being the Jewish Christmas and reinstated as the holiday commemorating the miraculous survival of a weak minority. Quoting both Alan Dershowitz and Allan Bloom along the way, the author contends that classical Jewish chosenness favors a core curriculum of timeless values over American individualism and the multicultural agenda. Unorthodox enough to sound politically conservative, Gordis champions the American flag and attacks the notion that we have a right to view pornography. He eloquently defends Judaism's demands that Jews bear children, give charity, study Torah, and repair the world, fearing that American Jews are going the way of the Little Mermaid (the self-destructive, non-Disney version). Only an educated American Jewry can add Judaism's voice of moderation to polarized topics like abortion and capital punishment. But there are problems here. For instance, why wouldn't the tiny American Jewish community be more valuable working to make the State of Israel a light unto the nations, rather than in laboring, as he suggests, to transmit its unique insights to American culture? And he falls into his own "trap of the Judeo-Christian tradition" by comparing Sabbath wine and bread to the wine and wafer of the Christian sacriment. If the transubstantiated blood and flesh represents our shared "monotheistic tradition," then the Jewish faith has little to offer Jew or Gentile.
This "call to arms" is rather too philosophical and dispassionate (and occasionally contradictory) to light any fires.