World Zionist Congress: July 24, 1992

Charles S. Liebman, July 24, 1992

The question why we should affirm a Jewish identity turns on the question of what if anything is distinctive about Judaism, or what distinguishes us from non-Jews. This question arises in particular historical circumstances. I know of no compelling answer. By that I mean that I as far as I know, societies in which this question really troubled Jews, in which it was an existential rather than a political question, never succeeded in providing answers which more than a handful of Jews found convincing. The modern responses to the question of the distinctive nature of Judaism were formulated in central and western Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. The very question, by the way, was derided by Jews of Eastern Europe. Answers included: God's special revelation to the Jews, the antiquity of Jewish culture, the superiority of Jewish culture and morality, the mission of the Jews, and the obligation of the present generation to continue the task of those who died to sanctify Judaism or who were slaughtered because they were Jews. All but the last response are reflected, at least in part, in the remarks we just heard. They will convince a minority of Jews who are predisposed to finding an answer which justifies their continuing Jewish commitments. But like the rationale for performing mitzvot, they only carry conviction to those who want to perform mitzvot.

Topic: History, Continuity, Diaspora, Jewish Identification, Pluralism, Outreach, Jewish Continuity

Name of Publication: The Collected Speeches of Charles S. Liebman

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Genre: Speech

Coverage: Diaspora , United States

Language: English

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World Zionist Congress: July 24, 1992. The Collected Speeches of Charles S. Liebman. Charles S. Liebman. 24 July 1992:


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