Sunday, March 02, 2008

Who are we? Redux

Because I am personally opposed to ever agreeing with anyone, I find myself, often, embroiled in interesting discussions with all sorts of folks. Over at JCarrot, I am having an interesting comments thread with Ben Murane (our own KFJ) about (I think) the difference between who is Jewish, and what is Jewish. The difficult part of this, of course, is that it's not a completely separate question.
Who one is affects what one does, and the reverse, as well.
I recall a famous quote by (the eminently quotable) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr:

"To be is to do"--Socrates.
"To do is to be"--Jean-Paul Sartre.
"Do be do be do"--Frank Sinatra.

Er, I'm getting off-topic here. Anyhow, so Over at the NYT , there is what is apparently another discussion of the ongoing rift caused by the stringent versus loose approach to answering the question of "who is a Jew."

The question for me is pretty fraught: I do believe that being this exclusive is ultimately untenable -but at the same time, there does need to be a certain level of internal definition of who gets to be considered "in."
The question remaining, of course, as to who is in enough, or how in they have to be, in order to make such determinations.
That's why I'm less interested in talking about who is Jewish, than what is Jewish. If one can agree on the latter, at least in broad terms, than the former can be fixed in almost any case.

Professionally, of course, I have dedicated myself to a particular kind of Judaism, and I do think that meaning inheres in Judaism in particular acts, practices and disciplines, and that there is a teleological reason for doing these practices. This doesn't invalidate other kinds of doing, but it does mean that not all doing can be accepted as within the boundaries of Judaism. And in truth, I can't really believe that anyone truly believes that anything goes. No matter how loose your boundaries are, there must be some, otherwise names become meaningless. If everything is "within" then one simply ceases to be - in simply a logical sense.

Anyhow, I invite others to pop in on the conversation, here or there.

xp to Jewschool comments turned off here to consolidate there.