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In ‘NYT’ lecture on intermarriage, Stanley Fish says religious difference is ‘deep and immovable’

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I always thought of Stanley Fish as a radical when I was young. Well not in this piece titled “Marrying Out of the Faith,” at the Times site; he’s a conservative. At the start of the essay, Fish, 74, puts intolerance of intermarriage off on his Jewish Polish immigrant father, but before long Fish is explaining that religious differences are “deep and immovable” and overcoming them is very hard work. Well marriage is hard work; and he is lecturing my generation about something that many of us are working through in ways that he cannot imagine.

Of course he has a disclaimer at the end, that he’s not against intermarriage, but along the way Fish utters the words “faith” and “ritual and doctrine” with reverence. What do those words mean? How meaningful is Jewish ritual or doctrine (Shabbos dinner, wrapping the tefillin, etc) to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Jewish husband or to Ben Rhodes the son of an intermarriage, or to Barack Obama seeking to reconcile his parents’ difference?

Later Fish puts down our “multicultural doctrine.” Oh: so there’s meaningful and nonmeaningful doctrine. Some of us find more meaning in multiculturalism than in bars on intermarriage. (My secularized American Jewish “faith” includes John Brown’s faith that the Golden Rule and the Declaration of Independence enshrined the same beautiful principle, of equality. My faith includes the motto of my wife’s girlhood religious compound: Simplicity, Sincerity and Service.)

Fish:

Early on, a difference in faith may seem unimportant and an occasion for practicing tolerance, while a difference over same-sex marriage or global warming or gun control may seem intractable and full of future hazard. (I can’t marry someone who believes that!) “But faith,” [Naomi Schaefer] Riley insists [in this book], “is a tricky thing and it sneaks up on people,” especially at significant moments when the pull of old loyalties supposedly outgrown reasserts itself. “The death of a loved one, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, a move to a new city — all of these things can give people a sense of religious longing, a desire to return to the faith of their childhood.”

This can be true even of those whose childhood faith was weak and perfunctory. A Christian may think of herself or himself as not being religious at all, yet “find it hard to imagine family life without a Christmas tree.” A wife or a husband, also not particularly religious, may feel that having a Christmas tree goes too far. In an interfaith marriage, Riley observes, holidays can “become like bargaining chips.” (I’ll do this if you’ll do that, and if the children get to choose.) Even when one of the partners has converted and religious tensions have supposedly been eliminated, the fact of conversion can be the source of its own tension, as when one spouse, in the course of an argument, “plays the conversion card” and says “but I left my faith for you,” or, in other words, “You owe me big-time and for a long time.”

Once you begin to think about it, it’s obvious how many potential pitfalls await interfaith couples, but it is often not obvious to them, Riley says, for at least four reasons.

First, the liberal rhetoric of individualism and personal choice is casually affirmed without sufficient attention to the ways in which one’s choices and much else are influenced by tradition and community. Many interfaith couples have “chosen the romanticism and the individualistic ethos of America over the demands of the communities that they have come from” only to find, later on, that those demands still exert a force.

Second, young people today “consider religion to be a pursuit of the individual” and therefore downplay differences in ritual and doctrine; they minimize the requirements of faith by conceiving of faith as something without a specific content that might become the source of friction.

Third, the assertion, found everywhere in American cultural life, that differences are to be celebrated and embraced — our “obsession with tolerance at all costs” — obscures the extent to which those differences touch on something deep and immovable. “Ironically, interfaith marriage may awaken people to the fact that … that the particulars of practice and belief do matter, and that not all interfaith conflicts can be solved with the placement of a menorah next to a manger.”

And fourth, faith has become “racialized”; that is, we have come to think that “like skin color [it] is a trait that need not divide us.” But, Riley demurs, believing that faith “is a superficial characteristic the way race [and] ethnicity are” doesn’t make it so. In fact, “religious identity … can and should be considered” as more substantive than racial identity; and like any other substance it remains in place even when the commonplaces of multicultural doctrine tell us that it shouldn’t really matter.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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55 Responses

  1. broadside
    April 2, 2013, 11:00 am

    You will notice in the American media that when a conversion takes place it is always a gentile converting to a Jew, never the other way around. I’ll never forget a marriage celebrated in the NY Times wherein the groom converted to Judaism, saying, “There was no way she wasn’t marrying a Jew.” Can you imagine the Times highlighting a wedding in which the Jewish groom converts saying, “There was no way she wasn’t marrying a gentile”?

    Then there’s Lew Lehrman. Remember him? Ran for governor. Lost. Then converted to Catholicism and Lew Lehrman was never heard from again. Til now.

    • James Canning
      April 2, 2013, 2:49 pm

      Interesting point. We don’t see much about John Kerry’s ancestry, perhaps for this reason?

    • doug
      April 2, 2013, 5:09 pm

      broadside,
      Perhaps one reason is that Orthodox Jews don’t believe you can leave being a Jew. There was a touching essay in Commentary some 15 or more years ago by a Rabbi expounding on the problems of conversion to Judaism, in particular conversion motivated by love more than a desire to be Jewish. His example was a woman that converted but after her marriage broke up she found herself drifting away from Judaism. Many would say she never really converted in the first place but the Rabbi maintained she did and that once she became Jewish by drifting away and returning to Christianity she became a Jewish apostate. He then used this example to proscribe these sorts of conversions. It was really a touching piece even though I am about as religious as a rock. I like to understand others points of view.

  2. seafoid
    April 2, 2013, 12:06 pm

    I think Jews have a right to be touchy about intermarriage.

    Rabbi Abraham Heschel even declared that he would prefer Auschwitz to conversion.
    http://www.amazon.com/Enemy-Brother-Revolution-Catholic-1933-1965/dp/0674057821

    • James Canning
      April 2, 2013, 2:47 pm

      Was the Rabbi serious? Or is this a PR angle?

    • sardelapasti
      April 4, 2013, 4:38 am

      Seafoid – “I think Jews have a right to be touchy about intermarriage.”
      I suppose you would extend the same right to be racist to everyone.
      Federal interference with our fundamental right to racist discrimination is such a drag, isn’t it?

  3. lohdennis
    April 2, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Stanley Fish is clearly remarking based on his own emotional stress of witnessing so many young Jews marrying non-Jews. All of his comments about deeply religiously feelings and ensuing “conflicts” are simply reflective of anguish if he himself were to marry a non-Jew now. It’s OK as a personal testament but certainly not deserving of a NYT print space. The only justification I can imagine will be that perhaps there are many others of his generation who empathize with his predicament.

  4. American
    April 2, 2013, 12:23 pm

    We need to abolish all faiths and just have One Church of the Ten Commandments—that would solve 99% of our problems.

    • eljay
      April 2, 2013, 1:03 pm

      >> We need to abolish all faiths and just have One Church of the Ten Commandments …

      I’d get rid of the Ten Commandments, which are mostly useless, and go with a single “Rule to Live By”: Treat everyone and everything with respect.

      That’s it. Simple, unconditional, universal. :-)

      Can I get an “Amen”?! ;-)

      • Citizen
        April 3, 2013, 7:00 am

        @ eljay

        Amen!

      • gamal
        April 3, 2013, 11:20 pm

        well you didnt ask for any but you can have Amiin if you want.

      • eljay
        April 4, 2013, 8:55 pm

        >> @ eljay
        >> Amen!

        Thanks. :-)

      • JennieS
        April 4, 2013, 7:49 pm

        @eljay
        Amen

    • ThorsteinVeblen2012
      April 2, 2013, 3:00 pm

      We “Frisbeetarians” don’t subscribe to the Ten Commandments.

      What would you do with us?

      Feed us to the lions?

    • ryan-o
      April 2, 2013, 4:14 pm

      It probably would solve a lot of our problems. I’m not a huge fan of any religious dogma though. Ordering somebody in the negative (Thou shalt not) can be said better with different words in the positive. I think we all deserve a day or two off from work, but if somebody wants to work I don’t think they should be stoned to death or whatever. It’s also a shame to see ancient statues get destroyed because they’re considered idols to some.

      I think the great irony is that all the Abrahamic faiths have the same foundation and worship the same god. In addition to arguing between religions, they argue and even war over different denominations. One would think there is enough common ground to unite them all, but no they disagree over the silliest things

    • Dutch
      April 2, 2013, 7:19 pm

      How about solving 100 percent by abolishing the One Church as well?

    • sardelapasti
      April 2, 2013, 8:00 pm

      American – “We need to abolish all faiths and just have One Church of the Ten Commandments—that would solve 99% of our problems.”

      That may also make it simpler for those of us who refuse personal commitments with all and sundry religious people.

  5. eljay
    April 2, 2013, 12:58 pm

    >> Naomi Riley: “Interfaith couples tend to marry without thinking through the practical implications of their religious differences. They assume that because they are decent and tolerant people … they will not encounter difficulties being married to someone of another faith.”

    Sounds pretty obvious. And, IMO, it’s just another strike against religions.

  6. Ecru
    April 2, 2013, 12:59 pm

    I’m not sure this piece is actually representative of Dr. Fish’s feelings. For starters the piece he writes is actually a precis of somebody else’s work and secondly his final paragraph, missed out here, doesn’t really condemn anything, it just points out that there can be problems with “mixed marriages.” I have to ask if Dr. Fish married because ALL marriages can have problems, not just the mixed ones.

    There are however problems with the piece Dr. Fish is looking at – an assumption that differing faiths are incompatible which they don’t have to be and the entire thing is based on a meagre sample of only 2500 couples which the authoress herself commissioned. And this authoress, Ms Schaefer-Riley does seem to have some political baggage of her own that she’s carrying around so I’m not sure how to take her conclusions, certainly they clash with the facts as I have experienced them either directly or through friends and family. Maybe the picture’s different in the USA? I have to say that having had a look at her defence over the comments she made about Black Studies programmed based on 3 dissertations, it does seem to me her academic standards are, shall we say, a bit sloppy? I mean come on, Christmas trees? Hardly central to Christianity now are they.

    To be honest the most telling thing to me was the title : “Marrying OUT of the Faith.” That to me speaks volumes and ones that don’t really make comfortable reading.

    • Citizen
      April 3, 2013, 7:11 am

      @ Ecru

      Yep. Those Xmas trees (especially the aluminum ones), not to mention easter eggs, are deeply alarming, a real threat to one’s core identity.

    • piotr
      April 3, 2013, 6:11 pm

      My sentiments exactly!

      As an aside, marriages have a lot of problems, and living alone is not problem-free either.

      Quite interesting was the factoid that there is more inter-faith marriages, proportionally, then Republican-Democrat marriages. Religion in USA is not the chief determinant of the worldview, community etc. But it is sufficiently important to write a book. Basically, a marriage can suffer from a clash of cultures, which may happen very easily when those cultures are similar but not the same. For example, years ago I invited a Jewish-American friend for dinner, and my wife cooked a very nice dinner (IMHO). First complaint: his grandma always made buckwheat with bow-ties. Bow-what? I wonder if there is a single household between Amur River and Oder that would do such a thing. Ruining perfect buckwheat by adding pasta is like adding ice cubes to vodka (i.e. something not done by civilized people). We felt shocked.

      • Eva Smagacz
        April 4, 2013, 2:27 am

        Piotr, stop teasing and describe other complaints – we know that there were more! Buckwheat with bow-ties! I feel sorry for his cook already.

  7. Krauss
    April 2, 2013, 1:52 pm

    Fish knows the battle is lost. After all, how can he expect young Jews to hold their gentile neighbours in contempt for insisting that their children only marry white if they’re white themselves(as if this happens at any significant rate anymore!) and then hold a completely different standard for themselves and accept uncritically that their grandma is right when she says only Jews are allowed?

    You can never hold these two beliefs, one racist and one liberal, at the same time for any longer duration of time without being a racist or a hypocrite. It’s why these bigots have been losing the battle for decades and will continue to do so.

    The intermarriage rate in New York City for secular Jews is now 55%. This includes 2nd marriages too, but even first marriages are up(they’re at 35%). And besides, many Jewish men have children in second marriages anyway.

    This debate mirrors the debate on Zionism. Jews are being taught that white nationalism is bad but Jewish nationalism is good. And then they’re given a bunch of qualifiers. Who can say the same thing with a straight face in 2013 who isn’t a racist? That’s why Zionism is going out of favour. Shock people! Turns out ethnic nationalism is terrible no matter who practices is in the long run. Democracy based on blood is no democracy. It’s Jim Crow.

    And no, Israel within 67 lines is no full democracy. Arabs within that line are not allowed to marry who they want(other arabs from outside the borders) unlike Israeli Jews who can marry Americans Jews if they want to.

    Once again, young Jews are asked to have one set of racist standards for themselves and then judge gentiles by liberal standards. Can’t and won’t last.

  8. James Canning
    April 2, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Religion is a cultural matter or issue. Most French people are culturally Roman Catholic even if they do not attend services each week, or month for that matter.
    Ditto with the Italians.

    Jews should feel free to marry non-Jews.

  9. Nevada Ned
    April 2, 2013, 3:29 pm

    I know a couple where the groom was Jewish and the bride was a mainstream Protestant. Neither one really cares much about religion, so it’s not an issue. They celebrate the Jewish holidays and Christmas (which by now is mainly a commercial holiday).

    The intermarriage rate in the US between Jew and Gentile is quite high: last time I checked*, about half of marriages of American Jews are to non-Jews. This is the consequence of the decline in anti-Semitism: Jews and non-Jews with the same income level and lifestyle are not, in fact, very different.

    This is the 21st century US, not 19th century Poland.

    This IS Mondoweiss, so the focus on intermarriage is between Jew and Gentile. Other intermarriage events occur between Protestant and Catholic, or between different Protestant denominations. Take this quick quiz: what’s the difference between a Congregationalist and a Methodist? Answer: nobody knows. Centuries or even decades ago, people got killed over these questions. So religious indifference is a positive social good!!

    *see the article by Lenni Brenner on
    Counterpunch.

    • James Canning
      April 3, 2013, 5:59 pm

      Nevada – – I agree intermarriage is a good thing generally. Anyone know the rate of marriage by American Catholics with non-Catholics?

  10. John Douglas
    April 2, 2013, 4:14 pm

    I find the use of the term “faith” in contemporary discourse to be confused and superficial. We should think of faith as an an action rather than a particular belief content, as the decision to go along with something prior to any proof that it’s the right thing to do or believe. Everyday human life is filled with acts of faith: That my bride or groom is the right person, that what I teach my students will be good for them, that my candidate will do what I hope, that my children will choose correctly if I give them the chance, that Mondoweiss will make justice in Israel/Palestine more likely. Everyone who lives honestly and with care is a member of a “faith community” whose values and beliefs are as dear as the preachings of a certain Nazarene, the words of an angel memorized by a desert dweller in a cave or the requirements of the pharasees. As usual, Stanley Fish is sloppy in language and thought leaving readers to wonder what he said or where he stands.

    • Citizen
      April 3, 2013, 7:20 am

      @ John Douglas
      You make an acute observation: “We should think of faith as an an action rather than a particular belief content, as the decision to go along with something prior to any proof that it’s the right thing to do or believe. Everyday human life is filled with acts of faith.”

      This is especially so since most religiously faithful don’t know much about the particulars of the content they profess to believe in. Seldom do they know particulars of similarity with other faiths either. Yes, human life is filled with acts of faith–or is it hope? Product marketing exploits this to the hilt in every manner possible.

  11. seafoid
    April 2, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Culture eats strategy for breakfast, American.

  12. Eva Smagacz
    April 2, 2013, 4:52 pm

    Religeous differences are deep and immovable for theologians.

    For the rest of us they can be acknowledged as a deeply respected convictions of our loved one. It is only if they prevent us from having loving interactions or relationships, that they become troublesome.

    This is just as dangerous intra-religiously (spelling?) as between faiths. Catholic husband that spends their mornings in church celebrating Mass, while wife runs around like a dervish getting their children ready, only to see him back in Church in the evening, and at a spiritual ( and child free) retreat at weekends, is endangering his marriage just as surely as a Muslim husband who promised his wife monogamy in marriage, and then found religion to start courting 16 year old.

    • Carowhat
      April 3, 2013, 1:06 am

      Catholic husband that spends their mornings in church celebrating Mass, while wife runs around like a dervish getting their children ready, only to see him back in Church in the evening, and at a spiritual ( and child free) retreat at weekends. . .

      I was raised a Catholic in a heavily Catholic part of western Pennsylvania and I must say I never knew anyone who lived like that. Perhaps you’re thinking of some other religion?

      • Citizen
        April 3, 2013, 7:23 am

        @ Carowhat
        I was raised Catholic too, in different parts of the East and Midwest America. I too found Eva’s comment odd. I believe she knows what she’s talking about, but perhaps that type of Catholic husband is more prevalent in Poland?

      • Eva Smagacz
        April 4, 2013, 2:59 am

        Hi, I had a misfortune to see the impact on marriages where husbands dived headlong into the organising and participating in Charismatic renewal in Catholic Church around year 2000 in Brussels, Belgium. It was more than second job for them. It was all consuming and had impact on families – I spoke to wives left to hold families together. not caught up in a Millenial fever, they had hard time.

        My point was that people can change the way they worship inside the faith, and those changes can have huge impact on the marriage.

      • Citizen
        April 8, 2013, 2:31 am

        @ Eva Smagacz

        Hi, thanks for the added details–I knew nothing about said Millenial fever.

  13. yonah fredman
    April 2, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Stanley Fish’s column was an endorsement of a book: Naomi Schaefer Riley’s “‘Til Faith do us Part: How interfaith marriage is transforming america”. Phil’s anecdote from his own marriage apparently is sufficient to declare Naomi Riley’s research and 248 pages obsolete, because it was endorsed by someone old.

    • Citizen
      April 3, 2013, 7:29 am

      @ yonah fredman

      What’s your logic here? Please clarify/explain your comment.

      • James Canning
        April 4, 2013, 2:45 pm

        Good question, Citizen.

      • Citizen
        April 4, 2013, 5:35 pm

        @ James Canning
        Thanks. It’s a serious question. So far, yonah fredman has not responded to it.
        I have personal game in it since I intermarried, and I have a child–well, now he’s a man. That gives me more skin in it than Phil who has no kids. There are other regulars on MW that are in my situation–it’s not a novel situation these days, although it was much more so back when I got married.

      • James Canning
        April 7, 2013, 1:59 pm

        @Citizen – – You are welcome. I have a number of friends who have intermarried, with sucess and happiness etc etc.

      • yonah fredman
        April 4, 2013, 7:44 pm

        Citizen- Phil will not countenance anyone saying anything against intermarriage, because he is quite happy in his marriage. Okay, fine.

        This column by stanley fish was a reaction to a book written by a young person, Naomi Schaefer Riley. She writes about the difficulty of intermarriage. This difficulty is not a product of her imagination, nor even a projection of her own difficulties of her own intermarriage, it is backed up by statistics. More intermarriages end in divorce than non mixed religion marriages. NSR set out, based upon the basic divorce statistic to interview people who would explain the difficulty and she wrote a book on the subject and based upon the way she started out: divorce statistics prove that these marriages are difficult, let me research this, it was obvious that those who are intermarried and see it as the best thing that happened in their lives, are going to object to the slant of such a book.

        But Phil does not attack NSR, but the messenger, Fish and on the basis of a generational clash asserts that Fish is a lecturer and an old scold.

        “Well marriage is hard work; and he is lecturing my generation about something that many of us are working through in ways that he cannot imagine.”

        He is turning this into a generational thing. Fish is an old fart and his imagination is stunted. But in fact Naomi Schaefer Riley is quite young based upon her publicity photos and Fish is merely echoing the lecture from Schaefer Riley, so to turn it into a generational clash is silly.

        This is Phil’s blog and if he wants to cite the minority case of exceptions to the rule and say, My wife and I are charting new territory and we will build a brave new world. Fine. Good for him. But for his suggestion that it is Fish’s age that makes the advice that Schaefer Riley gives a lecture from one generation to another, this is just silly.

  14. Howard
    April 2, 2013, 5:22 pm

    “But faith,” [Naomi Schaefer] Riley insists [in this book], “is a tricky thing and it sneaks up on people,” especially at significant moments when the pull of old loyalties supposedly outgrown reasserts itself. “The death of a loved one, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, a move to a new city — all of these things can give people a sense of religious longing, a desire to return to the faith of their childhood.”

    To ascribe these sorts of emotional conflicts to intermarriage alone reflects a shallow understanding of both life and relationships that borders on ignorance and intolerance. The reality is that people do change during the course of a marriage and that those changes can cause marital strife. This is natural and the ability to work out such conflicts are a measure of a couple’s emotional maturity. If an American Jew marries an Israeli Jew and they move to Israel, is it also possible that “The death of a loved one, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, a move to a new city” could cause the American Jew a similar sense of longing to return to the familiar home of his or her childhood. Might he or she even become angry and resentful toward their partner for having “made them” gave up what they once loved and enjoyed. Might that person also feel “you owe me big time.”

    Isn’t a similar scene played out thousands of times when couples, regardless of their religious beliefs have to relocate for employment purposes or deal with unpleasant in laws?

    By extension of Fish’s argument one might ask whether Reform, Conservative and Orthodox jews should intermarry since their practices, customs and observances differ. He also fails to note the stress and tensions that rock a marriage when a couple who were of the same faith and whose religious views were in sync when they were first married, become more or less observant during the course of their marriage. I am personally familiar with Jewish couple whose marriage broke up when he started to demand they keep a strict Kosher home and Sabbath observance.

    The bottom line is that these types of conflicts in one form or another are part of the human condition. Mature, responsible committed couples work them out and get on with their marriage.

    BTW, I wonder he would have to say about the Book of Ruth.

    • Donald
      April 2, 2013, 7:55 pm

      “BTW, I wonder he would have to say about the Book of Ruth.”

      A fair number of religious people seem to miss the liberal strands in their own tradition.

  15. southernobserver
    April 2, 2013, 6:21 pm

    This sort of thing is exactly why I have gone from polite evasion to bluntly rejecting monotheism as inconsistent with reality…. or any reasonable social outcome. Of course, also I get to annoy people more that way.

    Seriously, though many of my friends and relations who married across cultural divides wound up moving large distances. It could be co-incidence, young people move, however in several cases I know that there was a lot of family pressure, which subsided markedly once the grandparents realised what they had done.

  16. MK_Ultra
    April 2, 2013, 7:22 pm

    One of my favorite stories of that jewish tolerance they so demand from others:

    Palestinian Guilty of Rape after Consensual Sex with Israeli Jew

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/21/headlines#14

    The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports a Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with an Israeli woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew. Sabbar Kashur was sentenced to eighteen months in prison after the court ruled that he was guilty of rape by deception because he had posed as a Jewish bachelor. When the woman later found out he was Palestinian, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault, alleging that she would not have consented if she had not believed he was Jewish.

    • MK_Ultra
      April 2, 2013, 7:49 pm

      Rabbinate’s new Jewish ID demands stymieing marriage plans, immigrants say

      Immigrants applying for marriage licenses are being asked by local rabbinical courts to produce ritual wedding contracts from their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents or other often unattainable documents to prove their Jewishness.

      http://www.haaretz.com/magazine/anglo-file/rabbinate-s-new-jewish-id-demands-stymieing-marriage-plans-immigrants-say-1.303532

      One rabbi close to the affair called the new process “unprecedented humiliation,” and said it was the direct consequence of new guidelines to prove Jewishness the Chief Rabbinate recently implemented.

      • ryan-o
        April 3, 2013, 3:34 am

        Doesn’t appear to be a separation of religion and state. So much for being a secular democracy.

        Though the article doesn’t make mention of it, I have a feeling there are problems among the non-religious whose Jewish descent is on the paternal side.

  17. Patrick
    April 2, 2013, 9:16 pm

    “How meaningful is Jewish ritual or doctrine (Shabbos dinner, wrapping the tefillin, etc) to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Jewish husband”

    Speaking of Ann Marie Slaughter, have you seen her advocacy of a ‘solution’ based on two-states-in-one in which all the settlers stay put and Israeli Palestinians lose their citizenship.

    See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/a-visionary-reinvention-of-the-two-state-solution/article10316862/

  18. RoHa
    April 2, 2013, 9:17 pm

    ‘Later Fish puts down our “multicultural doctrine.” ‘

    To me, “multicultural doctrine” seems to be a form of politically correct apartheid. It seems to be the idea that people should be divided up and locked into cultural “communities” that retain the cultures of their grandparents (no matter how irrelevant or rebarbative those cultures may be) rather than integrating to form a single community.

    On that understanding, it sounds like he is promoting “multicultural doctrine”.

    • Sibiriak
      April 3, 2013, 12:16 am

      Good point. Although I personally favor some cultural diversity, even if that means tolerating some rebarbative elements.

    • ryan-o
      April 3, 2013, 3:24 am

      I agree. Canadian authors have written quite a bit (negatively) on the topic and it’s one of the reasons (among others) that Quebec wants to be their own country. The way the concept is promoted and the way it is executed are not the same. There are definitely places in the US with their own distinct culture made up and/or influenced by combining different cultures. There are also many more places where different cultures segregate and enclave themselves in a single community. In my experience the latter is much more common than the former. The former requires some degree of compatibility too. This is a truth that I would conjecture some of the contributors here fail to see the reality of. Liberalism to me, as popularly understood, is the flip side of conservatism. Both of them are cults where you either agree or you’re kicked out.

      • Citizen
        April 3, 2013, 7:48 am

        @ ryan-o. I pretty much agree too. Currently, many cable TV channels in America are running “reality” shows that evoke the pros and cons of multiculturalism within USA borders, e.g., Russian Jews in NY, Iranian Jews out West, Mormon/Mennoite kids trying to break away across the Midwest, Italian-American young adults in NY/NY shores, Amish kids trying to break away across the Midwest, and the shows dealing with the Roma experience in America, which is just riddled with express extreme paranoia against intermarriage as a direct and profound threat to the survival of the Roma. On the last show I watched, a Gypsy Dad railed that assimilation meant extinction of his people to him.

        OTOH, there’s also tons of food shows on Cable TV that enmesh the viewer with the joys of niche sub-culture cuisine, as well as those that glorify many current basic “all-American” comfort foods that originated within a particular ethnic immigrant group–and show you the newest ones now on the road to all-American status. These include many fusion fast foods available in the 21St Century in America.

  19. Carowhat
    April 3, 2013, 6:53 pm

    I sometimes find it odd to listen to people here fret and worry about what it means to be Jewish. Posts here sometimes read like one of those Grimm’s fairy tales in which some poor boy suspects he’s really a prince with royal blood. Most people here, it seems, are on the left politically. So why all the worry with what at root are bloodlines?

  20. James Canning
    April 3, 2013, 7:43 pm

    Shouldn’t “being Jewish” be a matter of religion or culture, rather than blood?

    • Citizen
      April 7, 2013, 5:57 pm

      @ James Canning
      You are betraying a simple Christian or Muslim view of religion. Being Jewish involves more than mere religion, and in fact it does not demand any belief in God, or heaven or hell. Get real.

  21. mcohen
    April 4, 2013, 6:53 am

    how many sides to a coin ?

    most people say 2—heads and tails-this and that
    but it is three -heads ,tails,and and the hand of G-d
    the hand that you can see and the hand that is hidden

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