Wrestling with Jewish Peoplehood, Plenary #1, National Museum of American Jewish History, April 10, 2016 (Photo by RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities.)
. â€œWrestling with Jewish Peoplehoodâ€ Shabbaton and Conference
â€œFor more than 75 years, the idea of Jewish peoplehood has served to unify Jews,â€ wrote RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities President Rabbi Deborah Waxman, â€™99, Ph.D., in the Jewish Daily Forward
. â€œEssentially, peoplehood means that Jews share binding ties that cut across practice and national boundaries. It points to a shared history and, we presume and hope, a shared and connected future. The decades have shown that the 'peoplehood' term has functioned as a powerful rationale, though not necessarily as an effective transmitter of values. As our global Jewish community becomes increasingly diverse and even polarized, many thinkers are exploring the idea of Jewish peoplehood and questioning whether or not it remains relevant.â€ (You can read more of Rabbi Waxmanâ€™s op-ed piece by clicking here
This is especially the case now that our communities are multiethnic and multiracial, and include Jews by choice and interfaith couples and families. We are in a post-ethnic Jewish moment, and many of the prominent thinkers in the Jewish world are searching for new ways to imagine Jewish connectedness in ways that donâ€™t assume an ethnic sameness.
On April 8-11, 74 of those thinkers -- including academics, Jewish professionals, rabbis, philanthropists, artists and musicians -- debated, dissected and analyzed the meaning of Jewish Peoplehood at the â€œWrestling with Jewish Peoplehoodâ€ Shabbaton and Conference
in Philadelphia. You most likely received many emails from us about the Peoplehood conference. More than 200 people attended and many watched the live stream. For the rest, we wanted to report back.
As might be expected of a conference like this, there were more questions than answers. These were some that we took home with us:
- What is the nature of Jewish collective responsibility?
- How is the presence of Jews of color, Jews by choice and non-Jews altering peoplehood as an ethnic concept?
- What role do philanthropy and funding decisions play in shaping peoplehood?
- In place of Jewish law, what values or ideas bind progressive Jews to the Jewish people?
- How can Jewish education foster a sense of peoplehood?
- What is the difference between â€œJewishnessâ€ and Judaism? Which are we choosing to preserve and how?
The conference clearly captured a vital and ongoing conversation about the future of Judaism and the evolving notion of Jewish peoplehood, with the Reconstructionist movement right in the midst of the discussion and the ongoing story.
The Kaplan Center
will be posting video and summaries of the conference online in the coming weeks. We will share these links in future issues. We also captured live video and live posts on our Facebook
and tweets on our Twitter
. Weâ€™ll pin these to the top of our feeds for the next week to give you a chance to scroll through and see them.
â€œWrestling with Jewish Peoplehoodâ€ was co-hosted by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood, The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University, and the Department of Jewish Studies of McGill University, and was held at the National Museum of Jewish American History