Secular Judaism Turns on the Jews

Considering the recent dust-up over anti-Semitism at New York’s prestigious Fieldston School and other schools associated with the Society of Ethical Culture, Judith Colp Rubin—who was among the third generation of her family to attend these institutions—considers the society’s founder:

Ethical Culture was the brainchild of Felix Adler (1851–1933). He was six years old in 1857 when his father, Samuel, moved his family from Germany to New York City to preside over Temple Emanu-El, the flagship of [American Reform Judaism]. Felix intended to become a rabbi himself. But his life was changed when he discovered Immanuel Kant’s supreme principle of morality, the categorical imperative.

When the twenty-three-year-old Adler returned to New York after studying in Germany, he made his first and last speech at Temple Emanu-El. It was called “The Judaism of the Future.” He called for an end to the trappings of ritual and theology and for a universal religion steeped in morality. Explicitly absent was the word “God.” His speech was considered revolutionary, but . . . when, in February 1877, the twenty-six-year-old Adler incorporated the Society of Ethical Culture, he did so with support from the Reform community. Although Ethical Culture dispensed with ritual and belief in a supernatural force, it incorporated certain aspects of religious life—such as holding Sunday services with sermons and designing its assembly hall to resemble a house of worship.

It should not then be surprising that Ethical Culture today finds itself grappling with the concept of Jewish identity. It has done so since its founding. Just how torn the school is about its Jewish roots became clear in 2015 when [its elementary school] instituted something it called “affinity groups,” a new mandatory part of the curriculum. A form arrived in an email to parents in which students, some as young as in third grade, were asked to pick their race. Their options were “African-American/Black,” “Asian/Pacific Islander,” “Latina/o,” “Multi-racial,” “White,” and “Not sure.” Students were then required to meet to discuss their self-affiliation and confront the affinities of others in a free-flowing mixed-race discussion.

Parents and others expressed concerns that the program was stoking the very racism it was designed to destroy by encouraging students to think in racial categories. Jewish parents had a special concern. Those who wanted “Jew” to be included among the [possible] racial identities were told by school officials . . . that this would not be an option.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Immanuel Kant, Secular Judaism

Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship