Friday, January 11, 2008

Shabbat Ideas - January 11, 2008

It is Yom Shishi, still really warm out and the election is up in the air so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for January 11, 2008:
Best Federation in the Land does more good
DK is written up
Shocking the San Fran paper is in favor of dealing with Gender (good Editorial though)
Plaguing Haiku

Jews have lived in America for hundreds of years. The new PBS documentary about Jewish Americans does an interesting job at taking a look at the history that informs our understanding of our role in the United States. If you have not yet seen this show, I suggest trying to find it in the coming weeks and recording it.

I watched the entire two-hours of the first show and was riveted. The content was nothing we haven’t heard before but it takes on the issues of American Jewry in a way that actually makes a lot of sense - in the way we want to remember it. The folks who put this documentary together (almost every major Jewish foundation that has anything to do with the arts) really put forth an image of unity in the Jewish community. It just isn’t true.

There was no history of the strife within the community presented. The arguments from traditionalists against the Reform, disdain from what the film called the “Our Crowd” or the rich German Jews towards the late nineteenth century immigrants, the industrialists fighting the unionist – it seems according to this documentary that the Jews lived in harmony with each other just hoping to take full advantage of the new country but cognizant of the underlying hatred. What about our fights? They are apart of this country's freedoms as much as anything else.

Fine I say: Paint that picture. However the dynamics in the Jewish community in the country are as interesting as the factual history itself. How the community reacted to the Triangle Shirt Factory fires was as important as the fire itself. How the Jewish owners back big business is as important as the fact that to this day UNITE-HERE is still lead by a Jew.

The diversity (while most of the Jewish community was then and still is today politically liberal – I had to get it in somewhere) of opinion in our community is its greatest strength. While this documentary didn’t present a monolithic American Jewish community, it did present a harmonious one. I look forward to the next two installments of the film to see if any other these issues are addressed.

Shabbat Shalom

1 comment:

rivster said...

Very good points you've raised here. I am midway through the first episode. I am enjoying it but it certainly makes me wonder whether we have compromised too much of what makes Judaism so wonderful in order to embrace modernity and become part of American culture.