We Are All Implicated in the World’s Repair
By Leonard Fein
Thu. Aug 14, 2008
There’s considerable talk these days about Jewish peoplehood. Is the sense of it sustainable? For that matter, is it still alive? And on what foundation does it rest?
What is it that connects one Jew to another? And what connects the two largest communities of Jews, here in America and there in Israel, to one another? Is their bond merely the residue of an earlier time, a characteristic of people “of a certain age” whose lives began in a world without a Jewish state and who themselves witnessed the extraordinary transformation that the creation of Israel embodied? Is that bond significantly reciprocal, or does it come down to our dependence on them for psychic needs and theirs on us for financial and political contributions?...
There is, I believe, one core idea that defines us and could, perhaps, bring us together, make of us one people. To be a Jew is to know, fundamentally, that this world is not working the way it was meant to, or the way it is supposed to. It is badly broken.
In that sense, we are all — all of us — in exile, whether we live in Jerusalem or in New York. Exile is not a place; it is an existential condition. And the meta-understanding that Jews bring to that condition is that we are implicated in the world’s repair.
The most obvious challenge to such a formulation is, simply, “What’s so Jewish about that?” After all, you don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye or to be passionate about tikkun olam. (Given our paltry numbers, that’s good news for both the Levy’s people and for our compoundly fractured world.) The good news is that the challenge can be met.