Why Should Jews Survive?: Looking Past the Holocaust toward a Jewish Future

Why Should Jews Survive?: Looking Past the Holocaust toward a Jewish Future

by Michael Goldberg
     
 

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In the fifty years since the Holocaust, the Jewish People have felt one overriding concern: survival. The ghosts of the murdered six million, along with the living generation of survivors, have called out the unifying chant, "never again." In 1948, this concern found a second focus in the state of Israel, the ultimate refuge of Jews worldwide. But Rabbi

Overview

In the fifty years since the Holocaust, the Jewish People have felt one overriding concern: survival. The ghosts of the murdered six million, along with the living generation of survivors, have called out the unifying chant, "never again." In 1948, this concern found a second focus in the state of Israel, the ultimate refuge of Jews worldwide. But Rabbi Michael Goldberg finds that these twin pillars of Jewish identity are brittle, and have already begun to crumble; they will not be enough to support or sustain the next generation. The time has come to answer the question: Why should Jews survive? In this provocative book, Goldberg launches a bold attack on what he calls the "Holocaust cult," challenging Jews to return to a deeper, richer sense of purpose. He argues that this cult--with shrines like the U.S. Holocaust Museum, high priests such as Elie Wiesel, and rites like UJA death camp pilgrimages--is deeply destructive of Jewish identity. As the current "master story" of Judaism, Goldberg writes, the Holocaust has been used to depict Jews as uniquely victimized in human history--transforming them from God's chosen to those who manage to survive despite God's silent complicity in their persecution. This Holocaust-centered, survival-for-survival's-sake Judaism is already showing its emptiness, Goldberg contends; the generation that survived Hitler and founded Israel is dying, and the new generation seems adrift (for instance, one recent survey predicts that 70% of American Jewish marriages will be intermarriages by the turn of the century). Jews need positive reasons for remaining Jewish, he argues; they need to return to the Exodus as their master story--the story of God leading the Jews out of slavery and making with them an eternal covenant that gave the Jews a unique place in God's plan. The Jews should survive, Goldberg concludes, because they are the linchpin in God's redemption of the world. Rabbi Michael Goldberg has long wrestled with the crisis of identity facing today's Jewish community. In Why Should Jews Survive?, he provides a provocative and powerfully argued challenge to the dominant theme of modern Jewish thought.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Today, both liberal and conservative Jews, warns L.A. rabbi Goldberg, follow a flawed ``master story,'' in which post-Holocaust Jewish identity is based on mere survival, not on any rich sense of history and worship. Instead, the author urges attention to the story of Exodus, in which Jews were given a chance to serve God and the world. In his thoughtful and challenging essay, Goldberg ranges through art, theology and Jewish communal politics, from Schindler's List to Harold Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People), arguing that the ``most distinctive evidence'' of God's presence is that, despite their crimes, the Nazis ``ultimately failed to murder the Jewish People.'' He also warns that the Holocaust tempts Jews, especially those in Israel, to uncritically claim victimhood and exemption from criticism. Thus, he argues, Israel must follow righteous Torah practices rather than situational ethics, and American Jewish communities must rise above dues paying to maintain three practices: study, prayer and ``acts of covenantal faithfulness.'' Ultimately, he relies on the idea of Jews as the chosen people, a tenet from which many Jews shy away: ``Jews should survive because they are the lynchpin in [God's] redemption of the world.'' (Aug.)
Aaron Cohen
The title Goldberg chooses for his denunciation of a mentality of victimization among Jews should cause a stir, but not as much as will his arguments. He asserts that it is important to study the Holocaust, yet he laments that the study has taken on almost religious dimensions. For Goldberg, to portray Jewish history as a long series of suffering, culminating in World War II, is not only inaccurate; it is a "deeply anti-Semitic" assessment of the Jewish people as "spineless." He chastises the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, saying that if its goal "is to spur America's conscience so that it never happens again, so far, it seems, it's been a $167 million bust." He criticizes a militant belief in martyrdom as he compares the Jews' mass suicide in resistance to the Romans at Masada to that of the Jonestown cult. Deeply religious himself, he concludes that the Jews' mission is to carry out God's redemption of the world. These are all provocative ideas. It's about time Judaic studies received such an alarming wake-up call.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199792580
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/10/1996
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

Michael Goldberg, one of the leading theologians and ethicists in America, is Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tikvah in Los Angeles. He was Founding Rabbi of Congregation Lev Chadash, a first-of-its-kind "covenantal" synagogue in Indianapolis, and has held chairs of Jewish Studies at St. John's University (Minnesota) and at the College of William and Mary. His books include Theology and Narrative; Jews and Christians, Getting Our Stories Straight; and Against the Grain: New Approaches to Professional Ethics.

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