Globalization and the Jews – Jerusalem Post

We have adapted to every age except the current oneRabbinic Judaism was the Jewish people’s response to an age of exile. Reform Judaism was a response to the challenges of enlightenment. Zionism was a response to an age of nationalism and national exclusion. What will the Jewish people’s response to an age of globalization looklike? The secret of Jewish survival has always been a remarkable combination of consistency and adaptability. Throughout history the Jewish people retained a core of beliefs, an attachment to the Bible, a set of values, and a sense of community. But they always found a way of adapting to the changing times, responding to the challenges of every new historical age. The diversity ofresponses in each age ensured that Jews survived to live to the next. Just like Darwin’s species, the new ideas and forms of organization best suited to the new age survived. Those that were either too rigid or too adaptive disappeared. The former were abandoned. The latter assimilated.Globalization demands that we adapt again. Whether good or bad, it is changing the way we live. Technology is creating unprecedented opportunities for cross-border, instant, and ongoing communications around the globe. Mobility is changing our notion of physical space. Values arealso being globalized: democracy, freedom, human rights, equality of men and women. Terrorism too recognizes no borders. It is organized globally, has global aims, and is a global threat. Organization, trust, and cooperation across border are conditions for success for both good andevil.YOUNG JEWS growing up in the world today are instinctively global. They take their mobility and easy communications for granted. They work for multinational corporations and are members of global movements fighting for human rights, peace, and a better environment. Theyhave close friends in different countries. They reject simple labels and narrow identities. Even if they reject globalization, they are part of its global anti-movement. They know that nothing in this world today is achieved without the cooperation of people across the globe. They know thattheir actions have consequences for the wider world and that there are fewer and fewer problems that are strictly local and concern only themselves. When these young people seek a Jewish response to this new world, they find nothing. When they seek a community that provides them with a sense of belonging and identity, they find onlylocal communities, bound together by religion, local needs, helping Israel and Jews in distress. They don’t find a home that recognizes today’s fluid identities. They do not see or sense the Jewish people worldwide as a real presence in their lives. They have no guidelines as to what itmeans to be a member of the Jewish people in the not-so-rare case when one is neither strictly religious nor only Zionist. The organization and mind-set of the Jewish people around the world today are still of the 20th century. Even the so-called global organizations are either religious or Zionist. None of them have the Jewish people, as such, as their own subject. They embody worthy values of solidarity with poorer relatives, but they don’t embody many of the values dear to today’s young people such as democracy, equality, and caring for the world and the environment. Even Israel itself must adapt to meet the challenge of this age. As the memory of the Holocaust recedes and distressed communities disappear, Israel’s raison d’etre as a refuge will seem increasingly dissonant with the spirit of the age. Being Israeli in the future will have to mean more than enjoying ethnic Jewish sovereignty. It will have to be about values and a mission in this world. Israel and the Jewish people will need to develop a new partnership – not one that implicitlyassumes that Jewish life outside of Israel is inferior, illegitimate, or temporary. Israel will have to become more than it is today, and so will the Jewish people. Building such a global Jewish community will require bringing together “soft” and “hard” elements, virtual and physical, values and institutions. The values and mission of the Jewishpeople in the 21st century need to be crystallized, and a new leadership trained with a global mind-set. Not unlike global corporate leadership training programs, future Jewish leaders would need to move from community to community, from “division” to “division” to develop a truly globalunderstanding of the Jewish people and its place in the world. A technological and institutional infrastructure must also be built to help create a single global community in which members can continuously interact, develop agendas, and mobilize, no matter where they are and what they do.New technologies have always brought about new ideas and new forms of organization. The world around us is yet again calling upon us to adapt, to organize ourselves differently. The Jewish people must begin to emphasize its Peoplehood – the truly global aspect of its being – rather than only the ritual side of religion or the territorial side of nationhood. This new community must be centered on a mission in the world other than its own survival. Only withsuch a mission can we provide a sense of belonging and identity to Jews in the rain forest or the boardroom, and respond effectively to the challenges and opportunities of this new age. Religious Zionism speaks of Am Israel, Eretz Israel, and Torat Israel. The time has come for Am Israel.The writer, author of Founders, Fighters and Us: Of the Young Generation and the Struggle for Israel’s Future (in Hebrew), is director of the Israel Nanotechnology Trust, and a member of Kol-Dor (, whose first annual conference convened in Sde Boker this week.To download the article.