Podcast: Daniel Gordis & Asael Abelman on the Personality of the New Jew

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Before the state of Israel was founded, some early Zionists argued not only for the recovery of Jewish political sovereignty, but also for the emergence of a new type of Jew. This “New Jew,” as they called it, would be free of Judaism’s bookish habits and the weight of Diaspora Jewish history and be able to take the reigns of the newly independent Jewish polity.

Three-quarters of a century after Israel’s founding, what is the state of the New Jew?

Last month, the Mosaic columnist Eli Spitzer contended that Israel’s 21st-century success made it outmoded. Looking around Israel today, he sees the fascinating revival of older, diasporic forms of Jewish life, rather than the triumph of the New Jew. On the same day that Spitzer published his short reflection, the Mosaic contributor Daniel Gordis published a newsletter in which he came to the opposite conclusion: the State of Israel, he thinks, is “not the end of the Jewish people, just the end of a certain kind of Jewish people.” To him, the New Jew is alive and well.

What could we do but convene a conversation on the matter? In this conversation, Gordis spoke with the Israeli historian Asael Abelman and Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver about the the New Jew, the Old Jew, and the types of human personalities that Israel tends to cultivate. This discussion took place live on Tuesday, July 12, in front of Mosaic subscribers.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.

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