Making spiritual meaning is the heart and soul of Jewish life for the individual Jew and engaging in the spiritual work of tikkun olam – making the world a more humane, ethical place – the heart and soul of our collective life. Peoplehood is the prozdor, the preliminary pathway propelling us to move forward in both these holy, educational tasks.
While I agree the word peoplehood could have problems for some but I think as educators we must find a way to connect with Klal Israel in some way. We see it happen when there are tragedies in the Jewish world, and I think that is part of the problem you identify. It is about circling the wagons when danger comes but not needed by at least the American Jewish community in good times. Israel is no longer the unifying force it was especially for young and more liberal Jews. The word Peoplehood has meaning to me, but that may be the nature of the way I see the greater community. I may well be in the minority.
I would challenge the relevance and truth of the final sentence, about “peoplehood is the prozdor.” I think it is time to jettison the term “peoplehood,” as it has become so vague as to be meaningless. For younger Jews especially, there is no sense of mystical connection to “the Jewish people” as Kaplan described it, and it is simply untrue that most Jews experience any actual connection to most other Jews. As I’ve written [more extensively] elsewhere, we need multiple metaphors for Jewish communal existence – some are more inclusive, some more exclusive, but in any case “peoplehood” has lost both its power and its meaning in any constructive way. I love the challenge of thinking about what that “prozdor” might be, using other language.