I’ve been thinking a lot about Zionism lately. Two things in particular have been on my mind. The first is a debate between Peter Beinart and Daniel Gordis that took place last week at Columbia Hillel. Beinart, the poster boy and leading thinker for J-Street fans recently published his new book, Crisis of Zionism. Like an earlier article that he wrote about the supposed distancing between American Jews and Israel, Beinart places most of the blame on Israel.
Gordis, a former head of the Conservative Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and a fellow at the Shalem Center in Israel, is the leading critic of J-Street and Beinart. His last book Saving Israel won the National Jewish Book Award.
If you want a thoughtful, gloves-off, debate about Zionism, Israel, and what it all means then you should watch it here. Both of them are very sharp, blunt, but also respectful. They avoid petty name-calling. Gordis uses the phrase “these are things that a Zionist cannot say.”
Micah Goodman spoke at Pardes, where I am studying, last week. He laid out some of the most existential and core questions of Zionism. In his analysis the key message of the Prophets is that the core of Judaism is the ethical mitzvot. Of course in our age liberal Judaism leads to a high rate of inter-marriage. So the only way to save Judaism is to distort it. And if that’s so, then why has liberal Judaism failed in Israel?