Jewish Identity Here and Now: Conference

American Jewish Committee (AJC), 1967

For the majority of American Jews of the new generation, both the inner imperatives and the external pressures that once molded Jewish self-consciousness are no longer decisive. With the loosening of close family and cultural ties and the erosion of the solidarities that prevailed in the immigrant world, it becomes increasingly problematic to define the grounds and contents of one's Jewishness. These are the reasons why the American Jewish Committee convened a conference on Jewish identity in November 1964. We wanted to avail ourselves of the thinking of some of the best minds in the Jewish community, who were concerned with the vitality of Judaism and in touch with the younger generation. We sought in this way to provide grounds for the further deliberations of the Committee and to stimulate further consideration in the community at large. The discussion furnished us with a number of searching questions and challenges that the Jewish community must seriously reflect on if the basic issues are to have a genuine resolution. Several in the conference stressed that the intellectual and emotional gap between the historic experience of the Jews and the realities of democratic society must be bridged. If we are to effect a synthesis between these two, we must first understand which customs, values, and attitudes are essential to each and which ones are merely circumstantial. The question arose, for example, whether the involvement of Jewish youth with the civil-rights movement can serve as an adequate means of creating or expressing a Jewish commitment. At the other extreme, the discussants considered the possible influence on the community at large of those committed and uncompromisingly observant Jews who perpetuate the traditional religious culture in its traditional forms. Can those traditional forms be incorporated into the everyday practice of the great number of Jews who have been less touched by the central historical and religious experience of the Jewish people? Like many of the issues we have faced in the past, those raised in the present discussion will be a long time in finding their solution. Though we in the American Jewish Committee have faith in a free society's ability to come to grips with the problems it creates, we also know that solutions take time and effort. All we hope to do here is to provide an arena in which issues can be aired, problems clarified, and perspectives sorted out.

Topic: History, Continuity, Culture, Jewish Identification, Pluralism, Community Relations, Volunteerism, Jewish Continuity, Assimilation, Future

Editor: Dawidowicz, Lucy S. , Himmelfarb, Milton

Page Number(s): 1--62

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Genre: Report

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

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Bibliographic Information:
Jewish Identity Here and Now: Conference. American Jewish Committee (AJC). 1967: 1--62.


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