Judaism is going through a historical transformation whereby Zionism is becoming its primary organizing principle. The book unveils the transformation, places it in its historical context by showing how Judaism evolved into Zionism, and then demonstrates how the transformation is already evident – both in the ways Jews relate to Judaism and in the way the outside world relates to Jews.
With 85% of world Jews residing in either Israel or North America, the book engages in a deep analysis of undercurrents in those two core centers of Judaism. It illustrates how developments in both Jewish communities lead to the inevitability of a transformation to Judaism 3.0.
Judaism never operated in a vacuum. The way others view Judaism and interact with it always had a profound effect on the state of Judaism. In-fact, key historical developments of Judaism were not a result of organic Jewish developments as much as of outsiders’ interaction with Judaism. This includes the destruction of the first Temple, the first exile, Cyrus’s edict, the second exile, the deportation from Spain and the Holocaust. Judaism evolved in response to those externally-driven events.
Therefore analyzing today’s external environment is just as important in assessing a Jewish transformation. There are two relevant external environments today. One is America, where 80% of the Jewish Diaspora resides – hence developments in America and its relationship to its Jews is paramount to assessing Judaism. The book explains how shifts in America strongly support a transformation to Judaism 3.0. In-fact for most Americans, Judaism is already in Judaism 3.0.
The book then examines how shifts in Europe and throughout the world effect Judaism – both in terms of the world’s perception of Judaism and how it interacts with the Jews. Such shifts not only pave the path to a Jewish transformation, but make a transformation a necessity.
Recognizing that transformations rarely occur absent an existential threat, the book analyzes key dangers to Judaism and shows how the transformation to Judaism 3.0 is essential to counter those threats. Finally, the book gives a snapshot of what life in Judaism 3.0 looks like and examines implications of the transformation, pre-requisites and new risks associated with the transformation.
Why the transformation did not happen till now, and why it is now occurring!
The State of Israel, the geographical manifestation of Jewish nationalism, has been in existence for 70 years. Yet the transformation from Rabbinical Judaism being the organizing principle of Judaism to Zionism playing that role, has not happened right away. This is because hurdles that existing both in Israel and outside, delayed such transformation.
The transformation can be viewed as occurring in three phases:
1. Inception of the Zionist movement in Europe (1896) and its rise as a recognizable representative of the Jewish people (1917-1935).
2. The takeover of the Zionist movement by the “Israelis” (Jewish immigrants to Palestine), the establishment of the State of Israel and its survival through tough military and economic challenges (1935-turn of 21st Century).
3. A change in the stature of the Jewish state form being a “charity case,” to being highly successful. This happened concurrently with the decline of legacy Jewish connectors in North America, and as hurdles that prevented the transformation have faded (21st Century).
The transformation is a delayed reaction not only to the establishment of the State of Israel, but also to the other seismic events that shook Judaism over the last century: The mass migration that led to the near complete re-domiciling of the Jews, the mass secularization and the end of Jewish insularity.
Changing circumstances in Israel
In the 20th Century, Zionism evolved to be a staunchly secular movement. This made a transformation of Judaism impossible. A secular ideal that is perceived to reject religion can not be the organizing principle of Judaism. In addition, a large portion of the Jewish world – the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) – were adamant anti-Zionists. To make things more difficult, Zionism evolved to be strongly associated with Socialism. This is when a significant portion of the world’s Jewish population was Capitalist. Finally, given its daunting challenges in the early years, Israel put a freeze on the topic of the state’s religiosity by locking in a status quo that deferred such discussions to an unspecified later date.
But the above hurdles have been removed. Zionism rapprochement with the Jewish religion is occurring both as Israeli seculars experience a religious resurgence while staying secular, and as power and ethos is shifting from the secular minority that ruled Israel in its early years, towards the religious/traditional majority. This is reflected in politics, in the military and even to increasing extent in the media and academia. The Ultra-Orthodox community is no longer anti-Zionist and in-fact turned into one of the primary flag-carriers of Zionism. Israel is no longer a Socialist society and indeed has turned to be a staple of free-market Capitalism. Similarly, Israel’s attachment to the status quo has been removed and replaced with a society marked by creativity and appetite for innovative changes. Mostly, Israel is no longer a “charity case.” It is an center of innovation and a global icon of success.
Israeli seculars’ religious resurgence is an outcome of various Israeli developments:
-De-sectoring of the Israeli society: Old demarkations between seculars, traditionals, National-Religious and ultra-Orthodox have blurred. This is similar to blurring between other sectors in the Israeli society, such as Ashkenazy and Sephardi. This de-sectoring allows an Israeli to consume experiences previously available only to members of other sectors, including religious experiences.
-Nuanced engagement with religion: The form in which secular Israelis engage with Jewish religiosity is no longer black and white. In the past, in order to closely engage with religiosity, a secular Israeli needed to become religious (lahzor betshuva), which carried an enormous burden with it. Today this is no longer the case. A new Israeli secular has emerged: The Datalf – acronym for “sometimes religious.” This makes it palatable and fashionable for a secular Israeli to stay secular while consuming religious experiences a-la-carte (analogous to the “Cafeteria Catholic” in America).
-Rebelling against rebells: The country’s founders rebelled against the previous generation which was religious and identified with Jewish themes and content. Today, the current generation of Israelis is rebelling against the founders who robbed them of Jewish experiences. They are rebelling against those who stripped Judaism from Zionism.
Not only that hurdles in Israel that prevented Zionism from becoming the architecture that binds together world Judaism have been removed, but Judaism in Israel is viewed, at least by seculars, Traditionals and National-Religious, as a Zionist experience!
Similarly, it is fair to say that all sectors and groups in Israeli Jewish society pivot around Zionism. Zionism is the key uniting narrative that life in Israel revolves around and the lowest common-denominator for Israeli consensus. It is clear that it is the Jewish nation, much more than the Jewish religion, that binds Israelis together. This is in-line with what Zionism’s founders envisioned: Zionism has turned to be the mechanism for “Judaizing the Israeli Jewish community.” It is the return to Judaism.
The Israeli ecosystem gives significant tailwind to the transformation as there has been a shift of both power and Zionist ethos from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In addition, there is a growing de-facto acceptance of Zionism from Israel’s non-Jewish population: Arabs, Druze, Russian Christians, African workers – they all connect to their life in Israel through Zionism, not through Rabbinical Judaism. Young Israeli Arabs are going through a process of Israzelization, but not Judaization. On campuses and cafes in Haifa and Tel Aviv, one can no longer tell the difference between a young Jew and and young Arab – in dress, accent or interests.
Israel’s astonishing success across multiple industries and fields turned Zionism, not Judaism, to be a light-to-the-nations. The Jewish state, just as Herzl predicted, is becoming the necessity of the world. This is thanks to its technological innovations, medical breakthroughs, scientifically discoveries and other crucial contribution to humanity. Zionism has become light to the nations.
Changing circumstances in American Jewish community
The transformation is enabled by developments in North America, home to over 80% of Diaspora Jews.
Political Zionism was founded in-part to rescue the Jews. American Jews did not need to be rescued. They were thriving in their new home. At last, they had freedom and equal rights. At last, they were accepted.
The American Jewish narrative of the 20th Century was strong. American Jews successfully narrowed down Judaism to a religion, stripping away the national element that characterized the Jewish nation-religion since its inception.
Community activities such as camps, Sunday schools, volunteering and organized charity became important elements of the of the American Jewish religion, in the same way that such activities were part of the American Christian religion.
When Israel was established, Zionism became an important add-on to the American Jewish experience, but not its main narrative. Israel, viewed with pride and even admiration, was the “poor cousin.” It was loved and supported from a distance.
After-all, American Jews already had their own folklore and narrative: Their Yiddish/Eastern European culture that they brought with them to America prior to the establishment of Israel. For an American Jew in the 20th Century, the ancestral geographical Jewish point of orientation was not Israel but Eastern Europe.
The connection through the Eastern European past, was later joined with connection through the atrocity of the Holocaust. More than any other connector, the memory of the Holocaust served as uniting threat of American Jews through the 21st Century. When it comes to films about Jewish topics, there are more movies about the Holocaust than all other Jewish subjects. Similarly, the Holocaust captures the lion share of funding for Jewish-related Museums. To a large extent, the American Jewish experience into the early part of the 21st Century was driven by tradition, reverence for the older generations and the past.
Not only did American Jews not need Zionism, but for some, Zionism was standing in the way. It was a disruption in the path of the Jew towards his newly-acquired American nationalism. It raised issues of dual-loyalty, and hence American Jews preferred an arm’s-length relationship with Zionism and later with Israel.
But in the 21st Century, circumstances have changed. American Jews began to de-facto disaffiliate from Judaism. The above glues have dissipated as the generations passed. Today, most young American Jews’ grandmothers were born in America. The connection to the legacy culture of Yiddish and Jewish icons became a matter of history.
Attempts to connect Jews through loose amorphous values such as “Tikun Olam,” (making the world a better place), failed as such are too generalized and not Jewish-specific. Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Americans of all strides are all trying to make the world a better place as well.
An American Jew today might still feel Jewish and consume Jewish experiences, but Judaism is low on his or her hierarchy of identities. Typically Jewish identity trails identities associated with his or her profession, university, social circles, sexual orientation and club affiliations. It is weak, non-exclusive, and non-committal.
This is occurring as other elements of American Jewish affiliation are fading. Jewish capital and Jewish influence in America are on the decline. New groups in American politics and wealth are rising and taking the place once held by American Jews. Similarly, Jewish leadership has failed to transform, both in age and message, and has become irrelevant for most American Jews.
As a result, by the second decade of the 21st Century it has become evident that American Judaism is on an evaporation track. This is similar to evaporation tracks of other immigrant groups that came around the same time as the Jews: The Irish, the Italians.
Like those groups, American Judaism has been gradually turning into an American brand, that can be consumed by all Americans. Yiddish words are used by all Americans, Carnegie Deli’s customers come from all backgrounds to consume a “Jewish experience,” even Seinfeld audience has been mostly non-Jewish.
Paradoxically, if such evaporation of American Jewry continues, than Judaism indeed turns to Judaism 3.0, since the overwhelming majority of Jews would be in Israel, where Zionism is the key connecting thread.
Such evaporation of American Jewry is not necessarily a negative. Indeed, a small minority of Jews welcome such dissipation. For centuries, the logic goes, Jews sought to integrate, to assimilate, to become German or French, but they were denied. Jews were not permitted to assimilate and were forced by their host nations to stay Jewish. Now they are accepted, now they are free to evaporate.
The majority of Jews, however, do not want to evaporate. The preponderance of American Jews want American Judaism to prevail. To do that, American Jews all of the sudden need Zionism. American Jews need Israel.
A transformation to Judaism 3.0 is the alternative to evaporation and it is already happening:
There is a cultural Israelization of the American Jewish experience. As old Jewish connectors, such as Yiddish culture and the Holocaust, become less relevant for younger generations, Israeli-related connectors become more dominate. For American Jews, happiness is replacing sadness, Wonder Woman is replacing Yentel, strength is replacing victimhood.
Such cultural Israelization was not possible when Israel was looked-down at as a “charity case,” but is happening today due to the multitude of Israeli products and experiences through which an American Jew can now connect: Technology and innovation, entrepreneurship, Israeli wine, Israeli soldiers, Israeli culture.
Zionism has not only picked up from Rabbinical Judaism the role of being a light to the nations, but it has also become a light to Judaism.
Even the passionate political debates and criticism of Israel by a significant portion of American Jewry are a form of connection to one’s Judaism through Zionism. For many young liberal and progressive Jews, Zionism became the primary arena in which they meet their Judaism.
Centering one’s identity around Israel was also difficult in the past because the “ask” Israel put to American Jews was Aliya (immigration to Israel). However, by the 21st century, the Israeli government, society and even the Jewish Agency softened that expectation and now merely encourage American Jews to strengthen their connection with Israel.
The elimination of Israel’s “Aliya or nothing” mentality, allows the American Jew to more strongly connect to Judaism through Israel. This enables American Jews to recenter their Jewish identity around Zionism. Israel, the vibrant geographical representation of Zionism, provides the American Jew with a strong tangible point of orientation, and unlike in the past, this is now possible without ever visiting Israel.
The renewed ability and necessity to connect through Israel, comes hand in hand with changes in the composition of the American-Jewish community. There are more Persian-Jewish-Americans, Russian-Jewish-Americans, and indeed a steep rise in the influence and acceptability of Israeli-Americans.
In the early years, such Israeli-American was on the fringe: A taxi driver, a mover, an illegal alien seeking a Green Card. But by the 21st Century, Israeli-Americans are very much in the mainstream: High-tech entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers, professors, scientists, business executives, artists.
American Jews now have the tool-set, the need and the want to connect to their Judaism through Zionism. This harness back to the foundation of Zionism. Herzl did not only view Zionism as a movement to rescue the Jews, but also as a Jewish ideal. It is exactly this aspect of Zionism which turns current developments in American Jewry into a primary enabler of the transformation to Judaism 3.0. Yet, an ever bigger impetus to the Jewish transformation lies in the flagship feature of American Judaism: Intermarriage.
Marring a non-Jew is the most common characteristic of the American Jew. Some statistics suggest the intermarriage rate is now 70-80% for non-Orthodox Jews. This is significantly higher than any other commonality of American Judaism, including synagogue attendance, religious observance, Hebrew school enrollment, visits to Israel.
The remedies provided by Judaism 2.0 to the intermarriage reality – mostly conversion – have failed miserably. The failure is two-pronged: Not only has Judaism 2.0 failed to stop intermarriage, but it created antagonism towards Judaism from both the non-Jewish and the Jewish spouse. Such antagonism is then carried to the children, and fuels the path towards evaporation of American Judaism.
But Judaism 3.0 turns intermarriage from a foe to a friend. The “ask” is no longer a “siddur in your library” (unrealistic and a “chore”), but an “Israeli flag in your heart” (attainable and desirable).
Regardless of whether the non-Jewish spouse converts and what type of conversion he or she choses, under Judaism 3.0, Zionism is the architecture that binds together Judaism, and therefore the intermarried spouse is in the Zionist tent – hence, in the Jewish tent.
This is not a halachic change. The transformation does not have a view on whether the spouse is Jewish under Jewish law. It merely suggests that since the organizing principle of Judaism is connection through the Jewish nation, such intermarried family is not excluded-out. More-so, it provides the family with a set of attractive tools to strongly connect to their Judaism, which in-turn allows it to be even more included-in. Furthermore, such solid Jewish connectors would carry on to the children and future generations.
A separate private issue, would be the religious choices of such Jewish families. It is perfectly legitimate for a person in the next generation to choose not to marry someone because her mother did not go through an Orthodox conversion. This is just as it is perfectly legitimate for a person not to eat in a kosher restaurant, because its kosher certificate is not of a particular standard (for example, not “Glat Kosher”).
Under Judaism 3.0, just as in the case of the kosher restaurant, the intermarried family is still in the Jewish tent, because they are connected to their Judaism through Zionism. This enables the sidestepping of halachic issues, without compromising them. In-fact, it also allows Rabbinical authority to be more strict and base conversions and other halachic decisions on merit and belief, and not on reluctance, realpolitik and practical considerations.
One common error made in analyzing American Jewry is the assumption that intermarriage and assimilation are one and the same. This is not the case. In-fact, most acts of assimilation occur in intra-marriage couples where both spouses are Jewish.
This is also true historically. The ancient nations that evaporated out of existence, such as the Canaanites, Moabites, and perhaps even the lost ten tribes of Israel, did not assimilate due to intermarriage. In most likelihood, they assimilated because they begun looking and acting more and more like their neighbors. They might have still married one another, but one could no longer tell the different between a Moabite family and an Ammonite family.
Today, one can see the same patterns with American Jews. Non-Orthodox Jewish couples, having Judaism low in their hierarchy of identities, do not pass on sufficiently sustainable Jewish connectors to their children. They are not religious and the fact that their great-grandmother spoke Yiddish is not sufficient to prevent intra-marriage assimilation.
Under the transformation to Judaism 3.0, it is the intermarried couple, that is more likely to retain such Jewish connection, because it connects through a contemporary and very relevant values – Israel and more broadly, Zionism. A child of an intermarried couple that goes on Birthright and/or engages with Israel – through positive and negative aspects – is much more likely to stay Jewish than that of intra-married couple who does not go on such trip and is agnostic about Israel.
While intermarriage has until now been a driver for assimilation, under Judaism 3.0 it can be turned around, and serve as a disrupter to assimilation!
More so, assimilation needs to be understood in terms of what the Jew is assimilating to, keeping in mind that 85% of Jews live in either Israel or North America. Under a transformation to Judaism 3.0, a Jew assimilating to Americanism helps preserve Judaism. The Jew is not “assimilating” to Christianity or Paganism. He is assimilating to Americanism, which as discussed below embraces and encourages Zionism.
An assimilated American Jew is a Zionist American Jew – not because he is a Jew, but because he is an American.
Given that Zionism is the architecture that binds together world Judaism, such assimilated American Zionist Jew stays Jewish!
Changing circumstances in America and how it effects American Jews
Conditions in the outer environment in which Jews reside are just as important in assessing a Jewish transformation. Developments in America strongly support the transformation to Judaism 3.0 and of Zionism becoming the architecture that binds world Judaism.
This was not the case prior to the 21st Century. At the onset of the American experience, there was gravity towards a homogenous narrative (“The Mayflower narrative”), and hence a person having an additional ethnological national affiliation was frowned upon.
Yet America has shifted over the years towards embracing multiple cultural branches of Americanism as long as they are rooted in the strong core American narrative. This is in sharp contrast to the European version of multiculturalism: A condominium of multiple cultures in conflict with one another and with no common trunk – a loose combination of “parallel societies.” In the past, Jews who wanted to assimilate and resemble their patriotic American neighbors felt they had to suppress their Jewish national affiliation. But today, the patriotic neighbor of the Jew celebrates his own ethnological national affiliation – be it Mexican, Irish or Korean. As an indication of that, two Cuban-Americans running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 repeatedly argued which one of them is more Cuban, not which one is more Christian.
Moreover, right from the beginning, America was about the renewal of the ancient promise: The establishment of new Jerusalem, the return to new Zion, rejection of the oppressive nature of the European past, the return to God and freedom of worship. From the onset, Americanism was a form of abstract Zionism. When tangible Jewish Zionism begun to take shape, it was synergistic with the American version of Zionism.
Therefore, unlike in American’s early days, American Jews proudly showcasing their Zionist affiliation is not only consistent with the existing American narrative, but it is a powerful demonstration of a core essence of Americanism.
Also, America and Israel are religious societies – both in terms of population composition and narrative (One nation under God). Yet, American Jews, for the most part, are not! In-fact, American Jews are perceived to be one of the primary flag carriers of secularism in America. The vast majority of Americans are devout Zionists but are not devout seculars. As a result, Zionism, the national expression of Judaism, is even more aligned with the predominant American narrative than the secular expression of Judaism.
In-addition, America in the second decade of the 21st Century, has entered a debate on the very essences of the American Revolution. America successfully rebelled against Europe, but now, some fear, Europe is making a “come-back.”
European values of post-nationalism, post-religious, Universalism and post-ideology are in conflict with Americanism. The US and Israel are both countries that are rooted in a solid bedrock of ideology: The United States rooted in Americanism, Israel rooted in Zionism.
Therefore, American Jews centering more of their identity around Zionism is a potent expression of patriotic Americanism. Moreover, a Jew who is proud of his Jewish national identity is arguably more representative the American ethos than a Jew who denies his Jewish national identity.
American Jews centering more of their identity around Zionism is facilitated by two additional factors: One is American strong alliance with Israel – politically, militarily, intelligence-sharing, the war on terrorism, economically, and in shared values and objectives.
The other is the popularity of Israel in the eyes of Americans, regardless of one’s political views. This is given Israel’s success, its innovations, its culture and its contribution to humanity. The philo-Semites of the past has been replaced by an expanding trend in America of Isro-Philia.
The transformation is also supported by political shifts in America. In all wings of American political, there is growing dismissal of the legacy liberal narrative that is rightly or wrongly associated with Judaism 2.0. This is felt most strongly in the Democratic party, as it shifts from old-stye liberal messages to more millennium-related progressive messages (from Gloria Steinhart to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). There is certainly disdain by elements of the Republican party and conservative movement towards liberal icons such as the New York Times and the media and the messages that are associated liberal American Judaism (Judaism 2.0).
Yet in both the liberal and conservative camps, as well as amongst the independent and unaffiliated, there is an active engagement with Zionism – both positive and negative. That engagement is further evidence that Zionism is becoming the more relevant expression of Judaism in America. Moreover, across the board, there is an anti-establishment wave. Establishment is out and with it the old Jewish politics that is associated with it. On the other hand, Israel is an issue of interest from various angles to various groups in the American electorate. That too is indicative in a shift of how America engages with Judaism.
Changes in how the world perceives Judaism
The transformation from Judaism 2.0 to Judaism 3.0 is also due to shifts that are occurring outside of Judaism, and to the evolving perception of Judaism. Throughout its history, Judaism has been repeatedly defined by the outside. That is the case both in context of its friends and its foes.
External societies have consistently viewed Judaism in a national context, not just in a religious context. That as well has been the case for both friends and foes. For example, the multiple deportations of Jews from European countries, the Inquisition, the Dreyfus Affair, the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing of Middle East Jews were all directed at the Jewish nation, not at the Jewish religion (options to convert were not truly offered).
This is the case today, as well. The world does not make a meaningful distinction between Jews and Israel. While Jews themselves may not yet fully be in Judaism 3.0, the world certainly is.
Most notably, this is reflected in the current state of relationship between Europe and the Jews. This relationship dates back 2,300 years to the Greek invasion of Judea and continued through centuries of Jewish refugees living in Europe. While there have been periods of peace or at least containment, the Europe-Jewish relationship has repeatedly cycled back to conflict.
Europe has persistently and continuously objected to Judaism.
Whatever form Judaism took, Europe was there to counter it, developing philosophies and mechanisms that were relevant to the evolving condition of Jews and Judaism. Similarly, the nature of European opposition to Judaism was also a function of evolving European realities (“all political is local”).
This historical pattern continues today. Judaism evolved: The reestablishment of the Jewish state is the most astonishing development in the last nineteen centuries of Jewish history. As a result, Europe has funneled its entire opposition to Judaism through its relationship with Zionism and by extension, the State of Israel.
Europe evolved: It is now secular, post-ideological, and human-rights conscious, and hence uses such tools and language as the currency of its opposition.
This is reflected in the expansion and mainstreaming of Europe’s “Israel-bashing” culture.
The core of the Israel-bashing movement might be in the fringe, but its influence is strongly felt in Europe’s mainstream. It is expressed in Europe’s intense criticism of Israel’s right to self-defense, in the European angry and passionate opposition to the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in its actions in UNESCO essentially denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem, and in the fast-expanding industry of blood libels originating once again in Europe (such as “the genocide in Palestine” and “the massacre in Gaza”).
Israel-bashing is the current evolution of centuries-old European Jew-hatred. It is arguably, much stronger, well-financed, and integral to contemporary European culture than previous iterations of Jew-hatred. This includes anti-Semitism that began in late 19th century as a fringe movement and within 50 years led to the Holocaust.
The shift in European opposition to the Jews is an indication that Judaism has transformed: from opposing Judaism through anti-Semitism to opposing Judaism through Israel-bashing; from opposition to Judaism 2.0 (Rabbinical Judaism) to opposition to Judaism 3.0 (Zionism).
Historically opposition to Judaism tends to get amplified when there are frustrations and anxieties in Europe.
That was the case in the black death that led to a massacre of European Jews. That was the case in the French humiliating defeat to Prussia in 1870 that led to the Dreyfus Affair. That was the case in Germany’s humiliating defeat in World War I that lead to the Holocaust.
Today there is buildup frustrations and anxieties in Europe: The trench war against Islamic terrorism, the uncertainty of the nature of Europe and its possible Islamification, as well as the fear of “replacement.”
This is in addition to unsettled issues regarding Europe’s core being that can not be addressed in peaceful times when there is stability, but are likely to resurface at time of war: The regional aspirations of European nations under “occupation” such as in SudTyrol, Catalonia, and Lapland; the form of government – Republic vs Monarchy; the collapse of post World War I arrangements including borders (such as potential Russia’s claim to Istanbul and other parts of Turkey).
On top of it, a fundamental debate on religion in Europe: the challenges that arose from the radical shift to secularism over the last two centuries, the rise of extreme-atheism in the post-war years, and the resurface of the dreaded possibility of a biblical-era conflict between Paganism (the EU?) and Monotheism (Israel, US, parts of Europe, Muslim world).
Like in previous times of European wars, Europeans are at outright deniability until the last moment. Like in previous times, once horror breaks, the targeting of Jews is likely to be potent and lethal.
The contemporary frustrations are not only likely to be directed at the Jews due to the Europe’s persistent historical patterns of turning to the Jews during times of crisis, but also due to the nature of the frustrations. It is much easier to funnel such frustrations through Zionism (Judaism 3.0) than through Rabbinical Judaism (Judaism 2.0). There is now a tangible target for Europeans to direct their frustration at – not individual Jews, but the collective of Jews – the State of Israel.
The old mechanism that were used in its opposition to Judaism 2.0 are now used in its opposition to Judaism 3.0. For example, the false-premise that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a source or contributor to terrorism in Europe, mentioned as recently as December 2017 by French President Macron.
Europe pointing a finger at Zionism, is by itself an indication of a Jewish transformation. Europe no longer points a finger at Judaism 2.0, Europe point its finger at Judaism 3.0.
That finger, in its extreme version, serves as the primary threat to Judaism, since it has destructive political mechanism behind it (UN, EU, nations).
The Jewish transformation is not only evident by the evolving nature of the word’s opposition to Judaism. It is also evident through the admiration to the Jewish state in Asia, Africa, Latin America and through much of the Christian world. Such admiration translates in-turn into renewed admiration of Judaism. This as well is indicative of a Jewish transformation.
The world seeks an engagement with Judaism. This is particularly true for Christians, many of which feel they want to “come back home.” In-part this is driven by intra-Christian shifts away from Paul and back towards Jesus. This Christian yearning to come back home to Judaism is not possible from a religious point of view. Hence, under existing Jewish architecture, Christians stay away.
But as Judaism transforms to Judaism 3.0, it allows Christians to get much closer to Judaism, while staying devout Christians, and without posing threat to the Jewish religion.
Judaism 2.0 proactively rejects Christianity. It has been doing so since Jesus’s time till today. Judaism 3.0, on the other hand, invites Christians to get closer. One does not need to be a “member” in order to be a friend.
Friends of Zionism (Judaism 3.0) is much easier than Friends of religious Judaism (Judaism 2.0). After-all it was the Jewish religion, not the Jewish nation, that rejected Jesus. Moreover it was the particular manner in which Judaism developed – Rabbinical Judaism (Judaism 2.0) – that made a point to emphasize contrasts between Judaism and Christianity.
Similarly, the Jewish religion (Judaism 2.0) does not house the language that would allow such rapprochement. Jewish laws makes it impossible for such “coming back home” – The Jewish religion does not allow Christians to attend synagogue, it does not allow them to chose Judaism a la carte, it does not even allow them to convert to Judaism (Conversions in Jewish laws are performed under the theory that the converted person has an old Jewish past to which he or she is reconnecting to).
On the other hand, failure to transform can be dangerous for both religions. The yearning to get closer to Judaism is already manifested in hybrid solutions, such as “Messianic Jews.” The transformation to Judaism 3.0 provides a framework for Christians and other non-Jews to “come back home,“ without any compromises to the Jewish religion nor the distinct particularity of Judaism.
It would dispel Jewish fears that Christians are trying to convert them and would draw clear lines: Christians are getting close to the Jewish nation, while keeping the religions separate.
This is already manifested through various Christian organizations such as Friends of Zion, the League for Friendship, Christians for Israel and various other organization that are not engaging in being pro-Judaism 2.0, but indeed actively engaging in being pro-Judaism 3.0.
The transformation would allow Christians to extend their friendship not only to the State of Israel and to Israelis, but also to Judaism and Jews as a whole.
The transformation would end traces of the 2,000 year-old rivalry between Christianity and Judaism and lead to a united Judeo-Christian front – a form of confederacy of two distinct sister religions.
Transformation necessary due to current threats to Jewish continuity
The transformation is not just a logical continuation of Judaism, it is also a necessity.
The existing architecture that binds world Judaism is simply too week to keep Judaism together given changing circumstances. That architecture – Rabbinical Judaism (Judaism 2.0) is a religious architecture. Had the threats to Judaism been related to secularization, such architecture might be appropriate. But the primary threat to Jewish continuity has shifted. The existential threats to Judaism are no longer associated with secularization; they are associated with denationalization.
Secularization is no longer a threat because the pool of Jews who could be secularized has been depleted. On the other hand, Denationalization of the Jewish nation-religion, now mostly secular, could mean the end of Judaism.
The denationalization threat manifests itself in three forms. Two are internal – the threat of evaporation of American Jewry and the threat of post-Zionism in Israel, and one is external – the threat of Israel-bashing. The transformation to Judaism 3.0 addresses those threats and assures Jewish continuity.
American Jews are on a trajectory to becoming Americans of Jewish ancestry. As discussed, Zionism becoming the organizing principle of Judaism provides American Jews with an attractive set of connectors, and addresses its challenges such as inter-marriage. A transformation is an alternative to evaporation. While the threat of evaporation of American Jewry is the most immediate, it is also the least devastating. Paradoxically, if such evaporation occurs, than by definition Judaism will transform to Judaism 3.0 (Zionism), because nearly all Jews would be in Israel, where Zionism is the connecting thread.
A bigger threat to Jewish continuity is post-Zionism. While this threat is less likely to materialize given the strength of the Zionist narrative in Israel, it poses a more potent danger to Jewish continuity.
Given that the Israeli narrative strongly revolves around Zionism, the rise of post-Zionism would strip Israel of its raison d’etre, of its Jewish nature, and hence would lead to the end of the Jewish state and of Judaism.
One fulfillment mechanism of the post-Zionism threat would be the immigration of millions of Arab refugees to Israel (to their ancestral homeland from 70 years ago), forming a strong majority and delivering an end to the Jewish state. Israel ceasing to be Zionist, would mean that individuals who have solid and recent connection to the land (70 years ago), would have a superior right than Diaspora Jews, who absent Zionism, would only have distant and historic claims (2,000 years ago).
Another fulfillment mechanism of the post-Zionism threat stems from the popularity of Israel. Unlike in the past, many non-Jews today wish to live in Israel. If Israel is no longer the homeland of the Jewish people, than immigration policies would become merit-based. It is not just “give us your poor.” On the contrary, those non-Jews arriving at the shores of Tel Aviv are high-tech professionals, scientists, writers and professional dancers. Such huddled masses were not interested in Israel a decade ago, but they certainly are now, given Israel’s success and relative safety.
The transformation amplifies Zionism as the flag-carrier of Judaism, boosting both Zionism and Judaism. It also provides an ideological iron-wall against erosion in conviction and meaning. When Zionism is the organizing principle of Judaism, post-Zionism would be akin to post-Judaism. By making clear what is at stake, Judaism 3.0 protects Judaism internally. Absent a transformation, post-Zionism risks destroying the Jewish nation from inside. If Zionism does not become Judaism’s organizing principle, both American and Israeli Jewish communities are at risk of evaporating as Jewish communities, and hence bringing Judaism to an end.
Yet the biggest threat to Jewish survival is not an internal one. The most potent existential threat emerges from outside the Jewish world – the threat of Israel-bashing.
Israel-bashing is the current manifestation of centuries old Jew-hatred. Like anti-Semitism that preceded it, Israel-bashing is gaining popularity and acceptability in mainstream European circles. It spreads into legitimate organizations and bodies, blurring the lines between legitimate criticism and assault on Israel’s existence. Israel-bashing is becoming a fashion, a social litmus test and unifying factor for many, in particular in Europe.
Given that the Israel-bashing movement has theoretical mechanism to destroy Israel politically (EU, UN, foreign governments, sanctions), Israel-bashing is a dangerous and potent threat to Jewish existence.
A key condition to the Israel-bashing movement’s success is for Judaism to stay in Judaism 2.0 (Rabbinical Judaism). The notion that Judaism is merely a religion legitimizes attacks on Israel. Even calls for for Israel’s demise could be viewed as legitimate under Judaism 2.0 and not a representation of anti-Semitism or Jew-hatred.
For example, one of the eery anti-Jewish cartoons of the last two centuries was published by the New York Times in 2019, but could be “forgiven” since the Jew that was dragging America, was Israel. Having it published in a Jewish-owned newspaper, provided the umbrella of legitimacy to other Israel-bashers, which can hide behind the motto of being anti-Israel and “pro-Jewish.”
Indeed, some even claims that opposition to Zionism and the Jewish state, helps Judaism. It protects the core of Judaism (Judaism 2.0), from this external parasite of Jewish nationalism that penetrate it. A Jewish transformation, whereby Judaism is Zionism, eliminate that fashion of attacking Israel out of “love”.
Absent a transformation, the threat of Israel-bashing could mushroom into a devastating danger to Jewish existence.
Judaism is transforming, both due to necessity and as a reflection of current realities.
Rabbinical Judaism (Judaism 2.0) was effective as Judaism’s organizing principle during centuries of exile and when there was an outer wall to Judaism. The Jewish religiosity was the glue that held Jews internally, but it was that wall – opposition to Judaism and its insularity, that kept Judaism in-tact.
By today, the Jews’ connection through religiosity and that outer wall that kept them inside, are both gone. On the other hand, Zionism is turning into the architecture through which Jews connect to their Judaism. The success of Israel – the geographical and cultural manifestation of Zionism – and the wide array of Israeli products and experiences that a Jew can connect through, makes Zionism the right organizing principle of Judaism for a time where there is no longer an outer wall. The Jew today is free to assimilate-out and leave Judaism. Staying Jewish is a choice. In an non-insular environment, Judaism needs to be appealing and relevant to the Jew, and that is exactly what Zionism provides. While the wall does not exit, the outside world still have a particular perception of Jews and that is funneled mostly through the prism of Zionism. Both internal process and external circumstances lead to the inevitability of the transformation of Judaism to Judaism 3.0.
This is the ultimate fulfillment of the deeper layer of Herzl’s vision of Zionism. On the one hand, Herzl viewed Zionism as a vehicle to save the Jews. Herzl recognized the permanency of European Jew-hatred. He realized that no matter what the Jews would do, Europeans will funnel their opposition to counter that. This includes Jews’ loyal patriotism to their European countries which Herzl described as “running to extremes.” Herzl witnessed how Europeans develop philosophies, ideologies and mechanism to oppose the extreme patriotism of Jews to their European home-countries. He concluded that Europeans would never accept the Jews, and only escalate their opposition to them. Hence, the Jews will never be safe without their own state.
But Herzl also recognized the organic nature of Jewish nationalism. He viewed Zionism as an infinite ideal that will keep the Jewish nation in-tact. This was Herzl’s deeper meaning of Zionism. European anti-Semitism was a tool to draw Jews into it.
Herzl recognized that very few people fully understand that second part – the deeper layer of Zionism. This was true during his lifetime and arguably still today. Indeed, according to Herzl, the number of people who fully understood that in the first years of Zionism, was only two: One as a friend – Max Nordau, and one as an adversary – his supervising editor at Neue Freie Presse, Moriz Benedikt.
Nevertheless, it is due to that second deeper part of Zionism as an infinite ideal, that it is now becoming the organizing principle of Judaism. The following table demonstrates how the organizing principle of Judaism have shifted.
Shifts in the Judaism’s organizing principle
Temple, Sacrifices, Jerusalem, Judea
Halacha, rituals, learnings, Oral Torah
(~10th BC – 1st AD)
(1st AD – 20th Cent)
(Mitigated due to exile)
National Judaism – Zionism
(21st Cent – )
(Mitigated due to Secularization)
The organizing principle is certainly not the only thread of Judaism. In various periods, other elements of Judaism existed that no doubt influenced the organizing principle. As explained in the preceding section, today, Israel’s increased religiosity contributes to the transformation of Judaism. In other-words, the contemporary embrace of Rabbinical Judaism in Israel facilitates the shift in Judaism’s organizing principle from Rabbinical Judaism to Zionism.
Zionism not only draws from the previous organizing principe of Rabbinical Judaism, but is also inseparable from it. It is a natural progression in Judaism’s development and in no way a replacement.
Just like in the previous transformation, Rabbinical Judaism (Judaism 2.0) succeeded Biblical Judaism (Judaism 1.0) by incorporating it, not replacing it, so does Zionism today. It succeeds Rabbinical Judaism as Judaism’s organizing principle by incorporating Rabbinical Judaism into Judaism 3.0.
The transformation to Judaism 3.0 allows contemporary Judaism to thrive, addressing its existing challenges, threats and opportunities. When the organizing principle of Judaism is the Jewish nation, the intensity of debate about religious issues gets significantly reduced. Hence, it could even contribute to more robust engagement with Jewish religiosity.
Zionism has also picked up from Rabbinical Judaism the role of light-to-the-nations and turned to also be light-to-Judaism. Israel once again is becoming the old-new point of orientation for all Jews.
As he was formulating his thoughts, Herzl recognized that his ideas will encounter both external and internal opposition: “We shall have to endure hard and bitter struggles: With regretful Pharaohs, with our enemies, and above all with ourselves,” he wrote. The transformation to Judaism 3.0 addresses the multiple camps of opposition. It allows secular, unaffiliated and religious Jews alike to embrace Judaism while at the same time provides the vehicle for the world’s nations to finally accept Judaism.
The transformation to Judaism 3.0 is successful because it is simple. It does not require legislation, a political movement, or even a decision. In-fact, just like Herzl described his original vision 120 years ago, today’s transformation is not based on a new discovery and its existence is already a reality. It is the result of an inescapable conclusion rather than that of a flighty imagination.
With a delay of 120 years, the vision Herzl articulated in the first Zionist Congress is turning into a reality: Zionism is the return to Judaism.