Jonathan of Head Heeb fame is convening the third annual blogburst for Arrival Day. Arrival Day commemorates the arrival of Jews to old New Amsterdam, and each year, the burst has a theme. According to Jonathan, “this year, the focus is on American Jews as part – or, more accurately, parts – of a larger whole.”
After last year’s Arrival Day I read Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock – no causal relationship. In it, Roth’s protagonist, Philip Roth #2 (you really need to read the book) preaches an idea he calls “diasporism,” as a counter to Zionism. Now, regardless of what thinks of Zionism as a political and/or religious philosophy, diasporism takes that idea to it’s logical extreme and flips it on its head. According to Roth #2, Zionism is an extreme form of ghettoization exercised on the Jewish community by itself, and as such, almost guarantees the death of the Jewish community. The only hope for keeping the faith and culture (he uses the term with several conditions) alive is for Jews to live all over the world. By being spread out everywhere, Jews have more of a chance of being accepted because they will be known, not just an Other. He also talks about the Jewish tradition gaining its vibrancy by being extroverted and interacting with different communities; the isolation of Zionism causes an “inbreeding” (my word, not his) of the Jewish tradition that eventually weakens it and makes it ill-suited for the world around it.
I think Roth, the author, is implicitly making an observation about the world we live in now. How did we get here? As much as there is a sense of defined and definable cultures, for example as presented in the clash of civilizations thesis, the reality is that cultures are in constant contact with one another, and it is this contact that has created the world as we know it. What we argue about now is not the reality of our situation, but how we interact and get along. Those who would argue to maintain an imagined purity see conflict and strife as the logical outcome of interaction, and need to erect barriers to keep that imagined level of purity. As facile as it sounds, the only way to break down those barriers is to make them impossible to keep. For example, Who You? recently posted about Muslim Boy Scouts, and it is that being in the world that we need. I know this sounds like platitudes and simplicity, but to me the ideas are so simple that I can’t complicate them.
Rachel over at Velveteen Rabbi talks about the inter-faith dialogue she sees in the Jewish Diaspora, and in my mind it’s very much a causal relationship. You cannot have productive conversations in an insular world. The greatest periods in Islamic history were period were ones of cultural and religious openness; Europe brought itself out of the dark ages through trade (too Marxist an idea?).
So where does the Jewish community belong? The same place any faith community belongs: everywhere. Look at Kurban Said, author of Ali and Nino. He was Jew who wrote about a Muslim man loving a Christian woman so convincingly everybody assumes he was one of them.
We all need our own diasporas. Sometimes from place. Sometimes from time. But always from where we are.
Technorati Tags: ArrivalDay