Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hipster Judaism

The Jewish Week has a thoughtful article about Hipster Judaism, the movement to make being Jewish "cool." Basically, these hipsters take (generally) meaningless pop culture and add a Jewish feel to it. Is this a good thing or it just one more example of watering down Judaism?

This is not a new discussion (non-Orthodox Jews get ready to be offended). I have often heard people debate the merits of non-Orthodox Judaism. Is it better to have people at least nominally connected to Judaism or to let many people fall by the wayside but leaving authentic Judaism as the only Jewish alternative. If you want to turn to Judaism, it's going to be the real thing. This debate can even be taken into Orthodoxy itself. There are a number of streams within Orthodoxy that some would call "bedi'eved" -- an inauthentic concession -- but that attract people who would otherwise not affiliate with Orthodoxy. Is it better to never water down Judaism even if it diminishes the ranks of the faithful? Purists would answer "Yes."

I don't have an answer to that perennial question. But libi omer li -- my gut tells me -- that Hipster Judaism is less of a threat to traditional Judaism because it doesn't even claim to be authentic. It's just keeping people from forgetting that they're Jewish and maybe even celebrating that identity.

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