Always attentive to the nuances of language, Rabbi Toba Spitzer offers us a dual challenge. The first is whether the concept so taken for granted of peoplehood in the Kaplanian lexicon is still functional and powerful in the 21st century. Arguably, the connection of 21st century Jews to Judaism is based on notions of spiritual meaning and world transformation (tikkun olam) that are not encompassed by the term peoplehood. Rabbi Spitzer also issues a creative challenge for those of us who organize and program for Jewish living. Perhaps there is a different prozdor/pathway that we need to navigate in moving from the periphery to the center of Jewish living.
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 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.
- Rabbi Toba Spitzer