What's Wrong with Nostalgia for Judaism's "Millennia-Long Tradition"

Unless they feel personally welcome, non-traditional Jews won’t care to own anything at all of the tradition.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York. Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York. Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images.

Response
Sept. 12 2018
About the author

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman is the Barbara and Stephen Friedman professor of liturgy, worship, and ritual at Hebrew Union College in New York, and a co-founder of Synagogue 2000. His latest book, The Closing of the Gates: N’ilah, the eighth and final volume in a series of books on the High Holy Day liturgy, was just published by Jewish Lights/Turner Publications.


In 1933, the great economist John Maynard Keynes looked out on the world and decried “the magic spell of immobility” that had gripped U.S. President Herbert Hoover. “Great issues deserve his attention,” Keynes pleaded. Hoover was not incompetent; in the devastation following World War I, for example, he had successfully organized European food relief. But in Keynes’s estimation he had misdiagnosed the Great Depression and, by failing to invest sufficiently in rescuing the economy, allowed the U.S. to go into a tailspin.

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More about: American Judaism, High Holidays, Religion & Holidays