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Authority and Community in
the Modern World
Introduction to Judaism:
Lecture 10
• Authority based on covenantal
• What communal structure, leadership
models, and boundaries embody the
Four Common Models
A Nation Led by Prophets
Liturgical Community Led by Priests
A State Led by Kings
A Disciple Community Led by Sages
Trigger Questions
Authority/Community in the
Modern World
• What are the challenges that modernity
brings to pre-modern structures of authority
and community?
• To what extent is religious identity obligatory
or voluntary? Ethnic? Racial?
• Can you fit into more than one category?
• What authorities do these communities have
over you?
Modernity and Religious
• Enlightenment
• Emancipation
– Jews as equal citizens
– Full Civil Rights
• Jewish Identification is Voluntary
– Same with all other religious traditions
Civic vs. Religious Authority
• Split between Political and Religious
• Rabbis Lose Power of Coercion
– Limited to Religious Sphere
– Not final arbiter
• Authority and community structures
• Jewish Sources and Contemporary
• Rabbinic Authority and Individual
Denominations and the
Source of Authority
• Orthodox
– Halakhah interpreted by rabbis
• Conservative
– Halakhah interpreted by rabbis with sensitivity to
historical change
• Reform
– Individual, Reason
• What kinds of communities do these different
sources create?
Mordecai Kaplan and
• Judaism as a Civilization, 1934
• People and faith
• Community based upon creed will
• Volk, people, have authority
• Creates Reconstructionist movement
Other Sources of Authority
and Community
• Communal Institutions
– Jewish Federations (philanthropy), Jewish
Community Centers, Cultural Events
• History
– Shared experiences
– Holocaust and Israel
• Family
Case Study
• Homosexuality and Jewish Law
The Sovereign Self
• Eisen and Cohen 2000 study of Baby Boomer
Jews (b. 1946-1964)
• Personal Meaning as the Arbiter of Jewish
Involvement (“Choosing Chosenness”)
• Judaism is constructed one experience at
• Interest in spirituality, but not in organizational
life of the Jewish community
• Identity is fluid
Intermarriage and the
Boundaries of Judaism
• Tribal Identity-Born Jewish
• Universalist, pluralistic outlook
– Heterogeneous environments
– Culture of religious syncretism
• Intermarriage rates around 50%
• Why is intermarriage a challenge to authority
and community?
• How do you think leaders should respond to
What About the Millennials?
• Religion in the TiVo and iPod Era
• OMG! Survey
– Informal, highly personal communities(p.8)
– Page 26-Jews and “The Godless”
• Hillel Survey and the Future of Judaism
– Slide 15, 16, 19, 23