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A Liberal Defense of Judgmentalism

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Publication Date: September 1996

Publisher(s): National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (U.S.)

Author(s): Steven M. Cohen

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)
Social conditions (Social values)

Keywords: American Jews; Marriage; Identity Formation

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Steven Cohen responds to David Adler’s critique that his earlier article on intermarriage and Jewish continuity was racist and judgmental. The Jewish people's historical emphasis on group solidarity, as expressed through marrying Jews and making friends with Jews, is not racist, but tribalist, and applies entirely to the private sphere. Judgment is part and parcel of a long rabbinic tradition that enjoins us not only to judge, but to reproach and reprove. We may disagree about what makes a Jew strong or good (or weak or bad). But such distinctions exist and we ought to articulate our judgment as to who or what exemplifies those characteristics. American Judaism must not lose its transcendental power, its claim to authenticity, its majestic links to the past and the future, and its ability to provide nurturing, meaningful communities. It must find a stance that is somewhat strict, somewhat demanding, and somewhat at variance with the current Zeitgeist, a task that definitely demands both judgment and judgmentalism.

In Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility, 27/516, September 6, 1996, p.6-8.