Almost 2,000 years ago, the Jewish sages said: “Ever since the destruction of the Temple, prophecy has been taken from the wise and given to children and fools.”
Since I am neither a child nor a fool (OK, perhaps a fool), I know that prophecy and prediction is a very dicey game.
Nevertheless, I expect that these trends in the Jewish world will continue in 2019.
First: Jews and American politics. Many American Jews see elements of the Democratic Party moving further to the left on Israel. They are moving from criticizing Israeli policies, to flirtations with the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, to outright demonization of Israel itself.
Many American Jews also see elements of the Republican Party that are moving further to the right on the domestic policy — wandering into nativist, anti-immigrant and, frankly, anti-Semitic territory. Oddly, ironically and tellingly, some of those Republicans are still fervently pro-Israel. They see in the Netanyahu government a mirror of their own xenophobic, authoritarian and hyper-nationalist tendencies.
Therefore, the two major political parties are toying with issues and values that American Jews venerate: the state of Israel and liberalism. Can those two values continue to coexist? Must American Jews choose between their love of Israel and their commitment to liberalism?
Those on the center-left are increasingly saying: no, those two allegiances can no longer coexist. Israel has failed, in their minds, to live up to the liberal standards that have nourished American Jewry. Therefore, it is time for a parting of the ways.
But most American Jews will not find that convincing. They will want to continue to hold onto both values. And they should.
Prediction: American Jews will increasingly find themselves to be politically homeless. I predict that most American Jews will continue their historic allegiance to the Democratic Party. They will say that Israel is strong, that she can take care of herself — and that our first priorities will be the healing of the American soul.
Second: gender issues in the Jewish community. Recently, the Central Conference of American Rabbis appointed Rabbi Hara Person to become its first female chief executive. This follows on the heels of Erika Rudin-Luria becoming the new president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Increasingly, women are ascending to the pulpits of large non-Orthodox pulpits. The presidents of two institutions of higher Jewish learning — Reconstructing Judaism/Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Hebrew College — are women.
Prediction: Women will increasingly get more top jobs in the Jewish world. Jewish women will increase their activism in the Jewish world, with the help of their allies. Nothing will happen regarding the Western Wall (sigh).
Third: the growth of anti-semitism. In Europe, the growth of anti-semitism is deeply disturbing.
Prediction: European Jewish leaders will call for increased aliyah to Israel. More European Jews will wind up at Ben Gurion Airport. Others will come to the United States and Canada.
Fourth: anti-Israel agitation. The Jewish voices that have been critical of Israeli policies have morphed into voices that are critical of Israel itself. For too many, anti-Israel agitation is either hip, or something to be ignored.
Prediction: I fear that there will be increased agitation against Israel on college campuses, and that it will target Hillels, Israel events, and students who choose to go on Birthright. Aggressive speech leads to aggressive actions.
Fifth: conservative rabbis and intermarriage. The Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical body of Conservative Judaism, is slowly easing up on its ban on rabbinical presence at intermarriages. In October, it gave the green light to Conservative rabbis attending intermarriage ceremonies.
I understand overturning that ban; it’s about shalom bayit, a peaceful family life. You would be amazed (or, you wouldn’t be amazed) how many rabbis have relatives who marry people who are not Jewish.
Over the last few years, an increasing number of Conservative rabbis have expressed their uneasy feelings about their movement’s ban on officiating at wedding ceremonies between Jews and non-Jews. Some have openly defied the ban; a rabbi was discharged from the Rabbinical Assembly for having done so.
Prediction: more Conservative rabbis will come out openly in favor of officiating at intermarriage ceremonies. More will actually do so. This will produce increasingly heated conversations within the Conservative movement. Nevertheless, I predict that the ban on officiation will continue.
That is what I see on the Jewish horizon for 2019.
And as I like to say, I could be wrong. May it be a good, healthy, and martini-driven year for all!