Inherent in the relationship between any community and the arts is a tension over representation. Creative artists seek to express things anew, whereas community leaders often have a vested interest in visions and celebrations of the status quo. In such an atmosphere, conflict is inevitable.
Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene; Karaite, Rabbinite; Kabbalist, Philosopher; Hasid, Mitnaged; Zionist, Bundist. Throughout history, the Jewish people has been demarcated by precise, mutually exclusive categories. With the advent of denominations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Jewish identification stratified still further. “Just Jewish” was never enough. There was always an adjective waiting in the wings.
To many people, the phrase “traditional Jewish family” calls to mind a husband and wife and at least three children, possibly seven. It might summon inherited memories of the shtetl, or images of a father and mother surrounded by their parents and children at the Seder table — three generations, reproducing mightily and wrapped in a web of mutual support.
For those seeking to engage the next generation of Jews, the college years present both opportunities and risks. In recent years, the community has turned its attention to the former. Multi-culturalism and self-discovery — two qualities of campus life that sometimes frighten the insular — have the potential to galvanize students towards a rediscovery of Jewish culture.
The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life
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