A New Leader for the Jewish People

By Jeffrey Goldberg

I nominate Tablet Magazine's Alana Newhouse to be the new head-Jew-in-charge. She uncorked a great column the other day on a subject of continuing fascination for me, Jewish self-destructiveness. Her particular topic was the terrible bill now up for consideration in the Knesset that would serve, in effect, to disenfranchise most Jews:

If this bill passes, future historians will inevitably wonder why, at a critical moment in its history, Israel chose to tell 85 percent of the Jewish diaspora that their rabbis weren't rabbis and their religious practices were a sham, the conversions of their parents and spouses were invalid, their marriages weren't legal under Jewish law, and their progeny were a tribe of bastards unfit to marry other Jews.

Why, they will wonder, as Iran raced to build a nuclear bomb to wipe the Jewish state off the map, did the custodians of the 2,000-year-old national dream of the Jewish people choose such a perverse definition of Jewish peoplehood, seemingly calculated to alienate supporters outside its own borders?

And, they will also wonder, what of the quiescence of diaspora Jewry? Many American Jews understandably see Israel as under siege and have not wanted to make things worse; they imagined that internal politicking over conversions and marriages was ephemeral, and would change. But the conversion bill is a sign that this silence was a mistake, for it has been interpreted by Israeli politicians as a green light to throw basic questions of Jewish identity into the pot of coalition politics.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/07/a-new-leader-for-the-jewish-people/60037/