Jewish life once revolved around service. A hierarchy was established in which the greatest esteem was attached to good deeds that could not be repaid. Since caring for the dead was an example of absolute altruism, membership in burial societies became the highest honor.
In recent months, headlines in Jewish newspapers have highlighted a disturbing trend in American Jewish life. On the one hand, some of the community’s most prominent educational leaders announced plans to step down. Although their reasons were diverse, the announcements were taken as evidence of a looming “leadership vacuum” in American Jewish life.
Birthright israel began as a dream. In its earliest form, the program envisioned a radical change in the Jewish world, one that would plant within even the most assimilated young Jews the seeds of their heritage. Its scope was grand and quixotic: the creation of a new Jewish life cycle event, the cementing of the relationship between the Diaspora and Israel, and the reinforcement of the selfless communal bonds of the Jewish people.
If it is true that all systems tend inexorably toward disharmony, then the Jewish people might be the perfect model of disorder. The theme of disunity, of a people warring against itself, bobs through the major waves of Jewish history. The Bible itself chronicles enough sibling squabbling to fuel several lifetimes of lawsuits.
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