Is Today's 'Social Justice' Jewish?
By Josh Block
There are more than 7 billion people in the world, and roughly 13 million Jews. There are 6 million Jews in America, and about the same in Israel, with the remainder scattered about the globe. So that leaves about just 6 million Jews in their natural habitat: If we were of the animal kingdom, the Jewish people would be an endangered species. It seems the world will do more to preserve the spotted owl in its natural habitat than the last remaining Jews in theirs. Perhaps Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, should be like a bird sanctuary, and the world should make it a special crime to kill a Jew.
The Jewish people are special. There aren’t many of us left. The perils of assimilation are not new. However, the catastrophic results of our collective failure to give our children an adequate sense of Jewish identity and experience, of Jewish specialness—the depth of this weakness in the fabric of our collective identity, which saps the will of young Jews to stand apart when it’s uncomfortable or unpopular—this is new. And the impact is accelerating.
Yet too many Jewish leaders continue to fetishize a wonderful 1960s model of social-justice activism whose foundational values are, in fact, a main target of today’s “social justice” advocates. The Reform movement and much of the unaffiliated American Jewish community has failed to recognize the troubling transformation that has altered the meaning of “social justice” beyond the point where its old-school liberals still recognize the term. A postmodern, moral-relativist zeitgeist, one that is almost unrecognizable to the older form of liberalism, suddenly broke out of its theoretical, academic confines and began flooding the consciousness of social progressivism, especially on campuses, and almost always in the movements to which young Jewish activists are attracted.
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