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WATCH: Micah Goodman on why US Jews must learn Hebrew

Goodman discusses his new book, which proposes that the path to a 'Judaism of inspiration' goes through Hebrew culture

There are two ways to ensure Jewish continuity, says Dr. Micah Goodman, an Israeli educator, philosopher and author. One is through the practice of Jewish Law, and the other is through culture. Since most Jews no longer seem to want to practice Jewish Law, culture could be an alternative. But to have it as an alternative, and to have a culture that all Jews can share, Jews who live outside Israel must learn Hebrew.

Secular Israelis breathe Jewish-Israeli culture, and “it’s giving them meaning, inspiration, identity.” For Jews who are seeking to guard their identity without practicing Jewish Law, language is a good option as “once you have Hebrew, all Israeli culture can be injected into your life,” says Goodman.

The conversation with Goodman, which I am pleased to present here, is the eighth in a series of discussions with Israeli intellectuals on the findings and analysis presented in the new book: #IsraeliJudaism, Portrait of a Cultural Revolution. It focuses on the cultural gap between Israeli Jews and American Jews.

The book #IsraeliJudaism, Portrait of a Cultural Revolution, is based on the work of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), and was coauthored by Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow at JPPI, and Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. The English version of the book was published recently and provides us with an opportunity to both present the unique nature of Israeli Judaism to the broader world, to discuss its future, as well as the implications for world Jewry.

This series of JPPI produced video conversations focuses on Israeli traditionalism, nationality, pluralism, ethnicity and more. The first conversation featured Prof. Ruth Gavison and focused on Israeliness and Jewishness. The second, on Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, featured activist and philanthropist Daniel Goldman. In the third, on Israeli secularism, we hosted historian Prof. Aviad Kleinberg of Tel Aviv University. The fourth featured Dr. Ran Baratz, who spoke about Israeli nationality. The fifth, with Dr. Moshe Hellinger, discussed the state of Religious-Zionism. The sixth hosted Prof. Tsvia Walden who spoke about progressive Judaism in Israel. In the seventh Ben Dror Yemini spoke about Israeli Mizrahi culture.

We invite TOI readers to try a short questionnaire prepared by Prof. Camil Fuchs. Once you have answered all the questions, you will be able to see where you are on the map of Israeli Judaism and compare yourself to Israeli Jews by political affiliation, religious affiliation, age and ethnicity (for the survey, click here). 

#IsraeliJudaism is a research project of The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), an independent professional policy planning think tank incorporated as a private non-profit company in Israel (founded by JAFI). The mission of the Institute is to contribute to ensuring the thriving of the Jewish People and the Jewish civilization by engaging in professional strategic thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry. Located in Jerusalem, JPPI takes a global approach to the Jewish People and provides decision makers in Israel and the Diaspora with action-oriented policy recommendations.

About the Author
Avinoam Bar-Yosef is the President and the Founding Director of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.
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