American Judaism: What's Next?

Mark Oppenheimer – Yale University

If you’re an American Jew, you don’t know what to think. One day, you read that we are disappearing due to intermarriage and low birth rate; the next day, you read that young Jews are fomenting a renaissance of religious life. One day, you read that anti-Semitic attacks are up; the next day, you read that Jews are, according to surveys, one of American’s most admired ethnic groups. And then there’s Trump: good for the Jews or bad? In this talk, a former NY Times religion columnist, who now hosts the #1 Jewish podcast, sorts out fact from fiction, and offers some surprising conclusions.

 

Discussion Questions:

 

1. Is America a Christian nation? The majority of Americans are Christian, and all the Founding Fathers were either Christians or the sons of Christians, but obviously we have a commitment to not establishing a state religion. So, what does that mean?

 

2. What is the role of market and capitalism in religion? Notice how churches advertise here, and how evangelists are always selling themselves to converts. Can you think of examples in your community of religion “marketing” itself?

 

3. Think of your parents and grandparents—did they attend a house of worship more often than you? Most likely. Is it because they were deeper believers, or because of cultural expectations?

 

4. Can you think of religions that are not explicitly “religions?” What about the National Football League–which has so much loyalty on Sundays–and annual rites like the Super Bowl? Or the Peloton craze? Or a daily Starbucks stop? Have other rituals replaced the old religious rituals in our lives?