What’s Wrong with David Brooks’s Pronouncement That “We Are All Jews”

“In a world of radical pluralism,” proclaimed David Brooks in a recent New York Times column, “we are all Jews”—in the sense that all Americans are now members of “creative minorities” in a society that no longer has a single dominant culture. Ira Stoll points to the troubling pedigree of such statements, which can be traced back to Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:19 that, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” As the scholar Jon Levenson explains in his book Inheriting Abraham:

Conversion to Christianity (to use terminology that did not exist in Paul’s time), then, gives Gentiles the status that Jews claimed for themselves: it makes them descendants of Abraham and thus heirs to the promise given him. It does this, moreover, while bypassing the laws of Moses and even the law of circumcision.

Drawing on Levenson, Stoll writes:

Brooks has just published a bestselling book, The Second Mountain, in which he details his personal spiritual journey, including his view that the accounts of Jesus in the Christian Bible “do feel like a completion to me,” and his description of himself as “a wandering Jew and a very confused Christian.” Religion News Service reports that, “When he attends church, he says the Nicene Creed and takes communion.”

Being a Jew merely by being a “creative minority”—but not by believing in one God, attempting to follow the laws of Judaism, or participating and joining in Jewish communal life—is a contemporary version of Paul’s shortcut. Think of how women might react to a New York Times op-ed claiming “we are all women” or how African Americans might react to a New York Times op-ed claiming “we are all black.”

It’s not that one doesn’t appreciate the sentiment or the feeling of having admiring allies, but one has the uneasy feeling that these allies don’t quite get it. They are expanding the definition of the group beyond the definition’s breaking point. . . . [W]hat Brooks means by “Jews” when he writes “we are all Jews” may be something distant from what most Jews mean.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Christianity, Judaism, New Testament, Paul of Tarsus

What Donald Trump Gets Right about Israel and the Arabs

Oct. 17 2019

With a brisk history of American policy toward the Jewish state, Michael Doran highlights the failure of those who have seen a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as paramount to U.S. interests, and the success of those who have instead made a clear-eyed assessment of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Too often, writes Doran, “Israel’s conflict with the Arabs has functioned as a screen onto which outsiders project their own psychodramas”: a skewed perspective that led to the failed Oslo Accords and to the misguided condemnations of American moves like the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. (Free registration required.)

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, US-Israel relations