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“It is not every day that such a daring, self-confident secular figure emerges in our midst, presenting a bold and positive secular-Jewish stance that serves as a beacon for Jews all over the world. Amos Oz was not only a literary giant, he was also an exemplary secular Jew.
Amos Oz’s secularism never involved an insidious struggle against religious coercion or religionization. It did not deal with “what not,” but rather “what is.” It did not address the ostensible appropriation of Jewish culture by the Orthodox, nor with the ostensible religious takeover of the public sphere or the education system. Oz was far more concerned with the abandonment of Jewish culture by the secular Jews, an abandonment that he felt required healing and change.
Oz was never apologetic for his deep-rooted connection to the Jewish bookshelf. He loved it, loved to read it and loved to use it, either in his literary works or as justification and validation of his moral and political positions. He apparently learned a thing or two from the national-religious rabbis, who were not afraid to connect their spiritual and text-based world with a solid and courageous political and social worldview.
Oz and his historian daughter, Prof. Fania Oz Salzberger, wrote in their book Jews and Words: “In the secular and modern part of Israeli society there is today a cultural atmosphere that increasingly identifies any “Jewish matter” – a biblical quotation, a Talmudic reference, even a mere interest in the past – as politically suspect, outdated at best, nationalist and chauvinistic at worst. There are many reasons, some of which are understandable, for the liberal resistance of secular Israelis to the depths of Jewish heritage. But this is a misguided, wasteful, perhaps even dangerous, aversion.”
Instead of dealing with the question of whether “religious” content should enter “secular” spaces, Oz preferred to ask what we – secular Jews – could do with this content. What benefit can a secular person find in both ancient and new Jewish texts? How do we make the Jewish bookshelf relevant for us?”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Not even what one might think of as the most basic tenet of any religion, a belief in the existence of God, is a prerequisite: Agnosticism is a key principle of at least one major school of Hindu philosophy."
"The presidency of any particular incumbent is relatively short... but the precedential consequences of impeaching a president without complying with the specific provisions of the Constitution “as it was written” are enduring."
"After news that a judge allegedly provided sexual favors to Bar Association president Efi Nave in exchange for her appointment, several politicians said in their responses that the Judicial Selection Committee needed to be the “Holy of Holies.”"
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"Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. "
"Here in the good old U.S. of A, the third annual Women's March planned for Jan. 19 is in serious trouble, thanks to irreconcilable political disagreements."
"Nature, however, with its endless cycles of death and rebirth, fascinated her. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself."
"Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do."
"The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised."
"Sphen and Magic looked like they would make great, diligent, careful egg-warming parents. They made the biggest nest, and they sat on it constantly."
"How YMHAs, followed by synagogue-centers, and finally JCCs have tried—in different ways—to balance Judaism and Jewishness, by bringing Jews together in intellectual, spiritual, and physical pursuits"