Maghen, Ze’ev. “ John Lennon and the Jews: A Philosophical Rampage”, The Toby Press, 2014.
Why Being Jewish …
As you scratch your head and try to figure out what the title to this book means, I say to you to not be dismayed—it is not what you think… or is it? This is one of the funniest books I have ever read and it is a “wise polemic on behalf of being Jewish…” It is both heretical and irreverent and it will open your mind and make you think as you question your sanity. What could be more fun than that?
The book is subtitled, “Why I Love Being Jewish” and the author is a Philadelphia born Israeli citizen who is a professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University where he chairs the department of Middle East Studies. The book is a philosophical study as it takes us through Jewish history and we see that we are all related. We see why we think of ourselves as special and he states that Judaism is neither a religion nor a philosophy. It is the product as well as a producer of passion that is based upon love. So what does John Lennon have to do with this? Dr. Maghen says that he does not want to live in a world where there is no heaven or hell or no countries or no religion and this is what Lennon’s “Imagine” is about.
The book is both original and fresh and important and every Jew should read it even if he has rejected his religion or adheres to traditional Orthodoxy. It is written as a rant that pulls you in as it look at the question why we should be Jewish and that being Jewish should be the center of our identity. Let’s face there are many more glamorous religions that are modern and progressive and besides who needs the label of religion anyway? We do not really have the tools to deal with these issues, so we don’t. In most cases we stay Jewish because that is what we have always been.
The fact that the author includes “A Philosophical Rampage” in the title can scare readers away but don’t let it. (Philip Roth is always rampaging about something and we read and love him). This rampage is fun and thought provoking and you will laugh as you think.
“The book is a thrilling and stimulating read, even if you don’t agree with everything the author believes in*. The book is not written as a field manual but as a partner/opponent in a typically Jewish debate (way beyond a philosophical discussion, although a bit short of a fistfight)”.
This next paragraph I am borrowing from the review that appeared in “The Forward” because it says what I want to but does so in a much better way.
“… you should especially read it if you are Jewish and 1) young; 2) think being Jewish is a bore; 3) Don’t, but can’t explain why it isn’t; 4) believe that social justice everywhere is a Jewish cause; 5) believe that saving the rain forests is a Jewish cause; 6) pride yourself on caring equally about Israelis and Palestinians; 7) deplore Israel for its narrow nationalism; 8) can’t imagine living there; 9) are troubled by the tribal aspects of Jewish identity; 10) are put off by the irrationality of many of the commandments of Judaism; 11) practice Buddhist or Hindu meditation; 12) count Mahatma Gandhi among your heroes; 13) regard the God of your fathers as a character in a children’s story”.
All right you are saying… so what is this book about? That is for you to discover.