Woody Allen, Jewish despite himself

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Director Woody Allen gestures as he attends a news conference for the film "Irrational Man" out of competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 15, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Director Woody Allen gestures as he attends a news conference for the film "Irrational Man" out of competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 15, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Woody Allen is 80 years old -- and far more Jewish than he lets on.

  • Interesting commentary.

    “The question is: how much longer will we have a Judaism of attitude — at the expense of a Judaism as religion?”

    It is an interesting question.
    If there is no good argument for a god, the culture built around it usually dies. The Ancient Greeks come to mind with dead gods – something of the Greek ‘attitude’ may remain. I don’t know.

    But the dialectic which Judaism welcomes; the tradition of questioning and probing for meaning has kept the character of God alive – even if there is no god in reality. The Jewish God travels well.

    In contrast, Christianity puts emphasis on faith not dialogue and Christians suffer for it. Faith forbids free inquiry. Islam does the same. Faith is fragile and requires constant invigilation.

    But Judaic culture is hardy. Unlike other religions it doesn’t need a real God – it has evolved to thrive on the arguments about God.

  • Rover Serton

    Max, every response of yours brings to my mind: I wish I would have said that. Thanks to beating me to the punch every time. Woody being “Jew’ish” rather than “Jewish” is absolutely correct.

  • Sam

    It is evident that the importance of religion is rapidly declining among the younger generations. It is also clear that you are concerned with Judaism becoming just an attitude at the expense of its religious importance. At what point can we accept the change and allow for this Jewish attitude to be the stronghold of the religion? As a Jew, I appreciate the Jewish customs and tradition, but don’t know how else to fully immerse myself otherwise. Am I wrong for this?

  • Sam,

    “As a Jew, I appreciate the Jewish customs and tradition, but don’t know how else to fully immerse myself otherwise. Am I wrong for this?”

    You are not wrong. You are proving my point.
    Judaism is unique because it is an ongoing argument about god. No real god needs to exist for that argument to continue and to flourish. No faith is required either. The point is the argument. The religion is as full (and as empty) as that.

    Christianity and Islam are not arguments – they are claims from supposed authorities; claims which insist on faith where avoiding Hell is the objective.

  • Jack Kay

    “…but don’t know how else to fully immerse myself otherwise. Am I wrong for this?” Right and wrong are not the issues. Think of a rocket just launched. All we can see is the body and the flames propelling it upwards. However, inside are dozens of systems, thousands of parts, and a few million lines of computer software making it all work. If you only learn about what you can see, you will miss the beauty of the internal systems. So too with Judaism: From prayer to halacha to midrash, and for that matter to Medieval Hebrew drinking poetry, there is more to lean than time to learn it. The choice of the extent of your immersion is yours alone. My own view is that too many Jews have come to view the religion as eating latkes on Chanukah. I think that is a loss, but that is just my view.