Friday, February 01, 2013

People of the book …

… Yale’s New Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization and the Question of Where Jewishness Lies Today – Tablet Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 What the Ozes are banking on is that the very idea of libraries, of reading and writing, of textuality, are enough to sustain a coherent Jewish identity. Much of Jews and Words is devoted to an affectionate exploration of Jewish feelings toward books, writing, and the intellect in general. In the Seder’s Four Sons and the dialectic of the Talmud, the Ozes see a Jewish respect for questioning and debate. In the anxiety Jewish parents famously feel for their children, they find the key to cultural transmission: “Jewish parenting had, perhaps still has, a unique academic edge. Being a parent meant performing some level of text-based teaching.” In the bar mitzvah boy’s speech, they find the Jewish pressure to contribute something new to tradition. All these qualities persist, they argue, in modern, secular Israel, helping to explain the country’s high-tech prowess: “We are talking habits, not chromosomes.”

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