“The Wondering Jew: Israel and the Search for Jewish Identity” by Micah Goodman— Bridging the Divide

Goodman, Micah. “The Wondering Jew: Israel and the Search for Jewish Identity”, Yale University Press, 2020.

Bridging the Divide

Amos Lassen

Israeli author Micah Goodman looks at the roots of the divide between religion and secularism in Israel today and presents a way to bridge the divide. One of my great pleasures is reading philosophical approaches to Judaism and Goodman here adds both political and social approaches to the religion as well as he examines the
place of religion in the modern world.

Zionism which began as an ideological movement full of contradictions looked to the past while at the same time harbored desire to bring about a new future. As a result, Israel has become fragmented between those who rely upon religious tradition and those who break with that tradition. Today, however, there seems to be a new middle between religious and secular Jews who want to engage with but not be restricted by heritage.

 Goodman explores Israeli Judaism and the conflict that exists between religion and secularism which has become one of the major causes of political polarization all over the world. By referring to and examining traditional religious sources and exemplary works of secularism, he shows us that each has an openness to learn from the other. He challenges both orthodoxies and proposes a new approach to bring religion and secularism together and provide a way to heal society that has been torn apart by extremism on both sides.

Before reading this, I read Goodman’s “Catch 67” and was amazed by his scholarship and sense of reason in looking at a situation (Israel/Palestine) where no solution was in sight. Yet he managed to propose ideas to, at least, begin working toward some kind of agreement. The gap between tradition and secularism is another situation of the same kind and is an important read for those who care about the future of the Jewish religion, of the Jewish people and of Israel. Through analyzing the situation, we are better able to understand why Goodman’s work is so highly respected. He dares to go where others do not.

In trying to understand any situation, we must examine all sides and the pluses and minuses that they present. Through his originality and deep insight, we are guided to do the same. Not only are we better able to see the culture and religion of Israel differently, we are able to place ourselves into it.

Leave a Reply