Judaism is ready for 21C. Revolutionary times? Unstable social order? Rapid technological innovation? New forms of communication and cultural exchange? Challenges to the status quo? Uncertain and unimaginable future? Judaism has seen it all before. If there’s a faith tradition, culture, way of life, or civilization that knows how to embrace 21C it is Judaism.
While all systems crave homeostasis or stability, Judaism has never had the luxury of a prolonged period of equilibrium. The upside of galut (exile) is that we’ve learned how to be a resilient and vibrant people capable of great transformation. Anyone who knows anything about Jewish history knows that Jews have lived virtually everywhere and under every possible social condition. We’ve experienced sovereignty and subjugation, exile and dispersion. We’ve lived in the East and the West, spoken every language, mastered every craft and trade, and contributed to virtually every society in which we’ve lived. We’ve been protected, abused, driven, expelled, beholden, scorned, and scrutinized. We’ve seen kings rise and fall, nations come and go, plagues devastate continents, and World Wars ravage humanity. We’ve lost sons and daughters, welcomed strangers, and both shaped and been shaped by the worlds in which we’ve lived. In light of the wild and unpredictable narrative of the Jewish people I’m confident in declaring that there’s nothing about 21C that Judaism isn’t prepared to handle.
Judaism is ready for 21C and Jewish Education needs to lead the way. Jewish Education needs to lead the way by demonstrating that the 21C technological revolution and its accompanying social revolution present opportunities for Judaism more than they do threats. When Jews encountered Romanian music we created Klezmer. When we encountered American Democracy we created Joe Lieberman. The synthesis of Judaism and 21C can similarly be an authentic expression of two systems integrating with one another in a mutually informative way. Jewish Education, broadly understood, can facilitate the interaction by embracing a wide variety of technological tools and by experimenting with changes in the social order. While much that emerges will be of questionable value and even beyond the pale of what Judaism deems tolerable, the vast majority will fall comfortably within the longstanding tradition of Jewish innovation. The question isn’t whether Jewish Education should change, but rather how we deliberately, creatively, and proactively interact with new opportunities. As always, dedicated individuals who see themselves as the inheritors and builders of Judaism will lead the way.