Jews turn away from Judaism, Jewishly

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Does it matter what boundaries we cross to find the truth we need?  If we can’t find what we need in the place we’re born we might as well cross the sea.

Take every survey you want.  Multiply them until the end of time.  The reason for Jews going out is because the Jewish establishment can’t stretch beyond empire.  This is the fundamental flaw inside the establishment.  It’s been there for a long, long time.

Sure the flashpoint has been about Israel and the Palestinians.  It still is.  But there’s more, much more, rotting the heart of Jewish life.

Perhaps it’s the same in Christian life.  Surely, the rotting there is of longer standing.  Islam, too.  Christians and Muslims of Conscience have a long, long road to travel.

“Don’t go that route,” a voice in my head wants to shout.  Let Christianity and Islam rot from the inside out.  Why dedicate your life to that which cannot be redeemed?  Let your life – including your Christian and Muslim roots – nourish the future.  Your exile will be haunted.  It won’t be in vain.

On the Jewish score, Judaism – as a religion, including the Conservative movement but without leaving out Reform and Orthodox – is a huge mistake. Mainstream Judaism is the wrong turn we have to declare our freedom from.  The surveys tell us this is exactly what Jews do.  Jews leave Judaism.

The surveys don’t poll conscience.  They don’t survey those who leave because the system is so hypocritical there’s no way to remain and retain your ethical sanity.  The same system Jews of Conscience leave is the one that trains our religious leaders – to be ignorant, reluctant and afraid.

So Jews leave and become born-again Christians and Muslims and Buddhists.  The majority of Jews who leave become secular in ways only Jews become secular.  But that is true of Jews who become Christians, Muslims and Buddhists as well.  Jews reinvent their new-found identities – Jewishly.

I’m traveling to Korea in a few days with folks from all corners of the globe. I’ll have more in common with them – and at the deepest levels – than with most Jews right down the street.  They will have much in common with me.

This commonality tells us something significant beyond shared rituals and symbols.  It tells us how little truth claims bind.  How identities can be traps.  How empire builders are one and the same wherever they hail from.  How people of conscience share exile and a new diaspora.

Why do Jews turn away?  The surveys don’t have a clue.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and

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