The Democratic Ideal and the Shoah: The Unthought in Political Modernity

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And therefore it is insufficient to clarify why a Jewish young adult should care more about marrying another Jew than about marrying a fellow conservative or liberal. To achieve the latter goal, one must abandon the futile search for a way to preserve Jewry without taking Judaism seriously—not that Cohen advocates any such thing. Judaism has been sold, and trivialized, with the message that it can be whatever you want it to be, that there is no beyond the pale.

Who has chosen us from among all the nations and given us His Torah. Only through Torah study and immersion in Jewish living can our young grow to appreciate that Judaism cannot be equated with any particular political ideology, no matter how compatible it may be.

Only then can they hope to understand what is so precious about being a Jew that their ancestors over the millennia were prepared to sacrifice their lives—and frequently did—rather than abandon their connection to God.

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But some things leave me uneasy, and more. One is economically statist relatively and socio-culturally libertarian, and the other is economically libertarian and socio-culturally statist again, relatively. Second, the Jewish embrace of liberalism in the 19th and 20th centuries was solidly in Jewish interests. It was liberalism in Europe and the U. I am confident Cohen knows that, but the tone of his essay gives little room or space for it.

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Which brings me to a final, crucial point. Cohen well notes the dangers of market idolatry—and I would extend and deepen his redeeming suspicion to all of our ideologies, Zionism, liberalism, and conservatism included. Only God stands above them all, in His place of justice, as we do the utmost we can. All political doctrines, even the truest, are provisional attempts at realizing that justice on earth.

Even the truest are at best tools for the realization of our deepest human duties: the alleviation of man-made suffering. Conservatism has much to teach us there, but only if it, too, is alive to its own inevitable partiality, the knowledge of limitation, of all our limitations, that offers the truest liberation.

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Actually, communities are essential building blocks of the Jewish people and nation. Many young Jews, in the Diaspora as well as in Israel, no longer identify with the traditional structure of Jewish communities, let alone with large-scale Jewish agencies and institutions. Among those who have not simply dropped out altogether, some, especially in Israel, are finding ways to reinvent their Jewish lives by founding small new mission-driven communities of their own. In the process, they are reknitting the social fabric of the Jewish state.

The potential viability of similar communities in the U. Identity cannot really be transmitted on the national level, since most people define themselves in relation to their immediate surroundings. And families alone, as strong as they may be, cannot withstand the tidal pull of the American melting pot. While some of the decline in American Jewish birthrates is cultural, much can be attributed to economic factors as young adults, having relocated far from their parents, lack the support system they need if they are to bear and raise children while pursuing careers.

A small, healthy community is a priceless support for young families, and a small, healthy, highly motivated Jewish community can simultaneously transmit Jewish values and learning. In his discussion of Jewish economics, Cohen rightly argues against the perpetuation of discredited ideas and for the importation of the best available thinking, whatever its source. As it happens, small communities have also proved superb at providing aid to the needy—indisputably a core Jewish value—in a way that protects and promotes individual initiative and self-help rather than blocking it in the manner of large-scale welfare programs.

Small committed groups are almost the only thing that, thanks to the ripple effect, has ever really changed the course of history. In fact, a number of such communities have already begun to spring up spontaneously in the U. Aharon Ariel Lavi is the founder and director of the Nettiot network of mission-driven communities in Israel and co-founder of the Shuva community on the Gaza border, where he lives. While it would draw from both Jewish tradition and the best sources of Western conservative thought, Cohen sees that the ideology whose contours he has sketched does not as yet exist whole and ready-made.

And while his respondents Yoram Hazony and Meir Soloveichik have voiced important concerns about the precise role of religious tradition in any Jewish conservatism, I do not think it necessary—or possible—for such an ideology to solve the theologico-political question once and for all. Conservatism, after all, is as much a product of modernity as is liberalism; it is not tradition itself, but rather a project of reestablishing and regrounding tradition when it has been neglected or besieged.

I would add a cheer on behalf of the supplemental task of gathering such additional materials as already exist and that are of use for a Jewish conservative ideology. In this I include valuable works by the writers whom Cohen mentions by name, such as Ruth Wisse, and, indeed, by all four initial respondents to his essay. I also include works of modern Jewish literature that dramatize keenly the failures of liberalism and revolutionary utopianism; earlier figures in the development of a modern Jewish conservatism, like Will Herberg and Irving Kristol; and thinkers from the Orthodox world, such as the recently deceased Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, who have meditated upon the ideological implications of Jewish tradition.

Compiling and expanding a usable library of conservative Jewish thought is not as urgent a task as the elaboration and promotion of the principles themselves, but it is part of the battle of ideas. At the same time, it is worth remembering that the destructive Jewish love affair with progressivism is rarely based on books. It is for the most part not a philosophical position, but a reflexive one, emotive and cultural. In the case of many American Jews, liberalism is their Jewish identity, an identity that they mistakenly believe comes to them, via the shtetls of Eastern Europe, from Mount Sinai, when it is actually a relatively late, American development, an accident of modern history.

To this is added the psychological liberalism of many Jews who experience political conflict as so emotionally rending that they retreat into fantasies of a world or at least a Middle East entirely amenable to peace processes. In cases like these, it is not so much that we need to encourage Jews to think the right ideas as to encourage them to think, period. In his landmark essay, Eric Cohen describes conservatism as resting on three legs: strong family values, free markets, and support for nation-states like Israel.

He is rightly chagrined that too many Jews have abandoned all three and he calls for a Jewish return to conservatism. I share his sentiments.

First, what is the common ground on which these three seemingly unrelated legs rest? Second, with apologies to Norman Podhoretz, why are Jews liberals? Let me try to answer them. First, the moral gap where the community used to be is filled by the state. State planning replaces community traditions. While communities, at least the old-fashioned kind, strengthen family bonds, states weaken those bonds.

Next, a large coercive state burdened with tasks traditionally handled by small homogeneous communities—defining standards of fairness, redistributing wealth—inevitably interferes with the free exercise of commerce. Finally, for those not embedded in a community, parochial moral flavors are something of a mystery, doomed to be judged solely in light of the universal moral flavors and to be found always wanting. The existence of communities—and states like the United States and Israel—that implicitly claim to reconcile parochial morality with universal morality, patriotism with fairness, is a direct challenge to this view of the world.

Thus, such states earn the contempt of angry liberals while, ironically, brazenly selfish states earn only the right to be patronized. There goes the third leg. Conservatism is not only a natural partner for Judaism, it is inherent in Judaism. Jews have abandoned conservatism in Western countries simply because they have abandoned Jewish communities that are committed to traditional Jewish morality in all its flavors. The problem will resolve itself when most Jews belong to such communities. My predominantly Christian orientation no doubt gives things different shadings.

For example, as Cohen suggests in passing, Christianity has more difficulty underwriting patriotism than does Judaism.

But the main thrusts of his account of Jewish conservatism—family, national strength, and a free economy—reinforce my priorities for a Christian conservatism. Yet I do not find myself wishing to dwell on our shared vision. A related assumption is that with regard to the openness of institutions to proposals for remedial responses to challenges and crises -- whether furnished by the public or by independent expert groups, as discussed separately Enabling Collective Intelligence in Response to Emergencies , Dennis Meadows recently declared:.

In , and for some time after that, I was very optimistic. I was naively optimistic.

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I honestly believed in what I called the "doorstep model of implementation. You learn the "truth. Dennis Meadows thinks so , Smithsonian. A further consideration is the extent to which the amount of information generated is now such that people have long reached a level of saturation -- marked by selective resistance to new ideas of any kind. Uptake is now widely constrained, leading to information flows of questionable value along unpredictable pathways of "least resistance".

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Nothingness : Fundamental physics, together with astrophysics, has given great credibility to the sense in which nothingness in the main characteristic of both matter and outer space Emerging Significance of Nothing , The possibility of " dark matter " has been hypothesized to give coherence to theories regarding the nature of the universe. This suggests the further possibility that some cognitive form of "nothingness" may underlie that to which the senses so readily attribute substantive reality.

This possibility has long been affirmed in various Eastern religions through insights such as the " emptiness of form ". Engaging with that nothingness is necessarily a cognitive challenge -- as readily avoided and denied as is the effective denial of the current insight of physics.

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The nature of that "nothingness" becomes more mysterious when recognized as a " hole ", as remarkably discussed by Roberto Casati and Achille C. Varzi Holes and Other Superficialities , -- with respect to the borderlines of metaphysics, everyday geometry, and the theory of perception as they summarize in the entry on holes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Emptiness : As a human condition characterized by a sense of generalized boredom, social alienation and apathy, emptiness is framed by Western sociologists and Christianity as a negative, unwanted condition. The feeling is also part of a natural process of grief, separation, death of a loved one, or other significant changes.

The sense may well be felt to justify suicide. Associated with despair, a personal sense of emptiness may have wider implications Implication of Personal Despair in Planetary Despair , It is well-recognized in the case of the treatment of servants, as has always been the case with slaves. The attitude has long been evident in relation to treatment of women in many cultures Elise M.