The Economist has a special seven part report on Judaism today. The editors of the Economist wrote the book God is Back a few years ago (discussed on this blog here and here) when they moved from their British approach of viewing the public sphere as secular to a profound religion is indeed back and touches most news stories. The Economist has become a beacon of proclaiming that we live in a post-secular age and are sure to give a well researched religion angle to most coverage. Whether you agree or not, and whether you like the interpretation of your movement, this report will be cited by people all over the world as the objective synthesis of the state of Judaism today. Think of the assimilation of the article into the world’s media as functioning similar to the way an article on Zoroasterian or Mandeans would be the baseline for the world’s journalists. These essays are good indicators of how outsiders read all the small bits of data about Judaism. Since The Economist is read in lands with little knowledge of Jews, they take a bird’s eye view of Judiasm.
They did more research than many Jewish publications. Here is the list of people they talked to but were not cited in the article:
Many people provided generous help in the preparation of this report. In addition to those mentioned in the text, the author’s sincere thanks go to: Marc Baker, Jonathan Boyd, Micha Brumlik, James Carroll, Maurice Dahan, Noach Dear, Motti Friedman, Malcolm Hoenlein, Shahar Ilan, Howard Jacobson, Laura Janner-Klausner, Anthony Julius, Matt King, Leya Landau, Orna Landau, Jeremy Leigh, Gideon Lichfield, Vernen Lieberman, Ruth Liechtenstein, Michael Melchior, Jeremy Newmark, Daniella Peled, George Rohr, Thierry Roos, Shmuel Rosner, Christian Schuler-Beigang, Zalman Shmotkin, Barry Shrage, Lindsay Simmonds, Iz Stein, Roz Stein, Dov Waxman, Rafi Zarum and Mort Zuckerman.
Notice in the report that Jew and Israeli has been conflated. Also notice the breakdown of denominational differences. They like Chabad, Limmud, day schools, and haredi birth rates as well as renewal and Ellenson. Some of their conclusions include:
Judaism is enjoying an unexpected revival. There are deep religious and political divisions, mostly centered on Israel. Israel is moving towards a more pluralistic Judaism. Chabad houses make Jews welcome wherever they go. Judaism has become a pluralistic buffet to suit all tastes. The political and the religious right are making common cause. They think the Haredim will eventually be included in some fashion in the draft.
Here are links the 7 parts in this special report
- Alive and well
- A buffet to suit all tastes
- An open invitation
- Talmud and cheesecake
- More Jewish than thou
- Who is a Jew?
- A Jewish spring?
“Today there’s Jewishness on the television, on the radio, in music, dance and theatre. There never used to be. That’s the measure of our success,” says Ruth Calderon, founder of Alma, the group that organises the learn-in at the museum and serves as a centre of Jewish studies in Tel Aviv all year round. Ms Calderon focuses on writers, artists and musicians. “I believe in elites,” she says. “Through them we’re reaching the mainstream.” A PhD in Talmud, she is determinedly secular. “Israeli youngsters know their Bible,” she says. “But Ben-Gurion robbed us of the Talmud’s wisdom. Growing up here I didn’t know my own culture. Now people are more open, curious, ready to listen.”
Arthur Green, a scholar of Jewish mysticism and a professor at a rabbinical school in Boston, blames Israel’s policy and American Jewry’s blanket support for it “for the fact that lots and lots of thinking Jews are walking away. And then we say, well, they’re not committed Jews anyway, so who cares about them?”