Peoplehood Preview, Wexner
I’ve been asked to address my peers at the Wexner Alumni Institute next week on the topic of Peoplehood. Here is a mini preview for people’s comments and suggestions.
Peoplehood Town Meeting: Ahad Ha’am Meets Jim Collins
A billion people on the face of the planet today did not have access to clean water, live on less than $1 a day and went to bed hungry. A billion people, of which 30,000 of their children will die today of hunger.
The Jewish people burst forth in history about 4,000 years ago. We are taught that Abraham, the first Jew, challenged God’s morality and sense of justice with Sdom and Gmorra, and then played chicken with God over child sacrifice. The tension of their partnership drew a line in civilization that child sacrifice is a moral crime.
There is something deeply off in our relationship to the world and to the probable intent of our moral tradition. We are seeking endowments for all the institutions that serve our children, the most privileged children in the history of the Jewish people and indeed, the most privileged children in the history of the world.
Is there a way to morally justify this excess in a world in real need? No, but maybe, maybe.
How many children need to perish on the planet today to break through and re-orient our priorities? 100,000 a day, 90,000, 80,000? You get the point.
The extreme focus on our communal survival in the face of unimaginable pain in God’s world should signal to us to drop the knife before we sacrifice not only the innocent by our inaction, but our own children’s place in the moral universe.
The past two thousand years have not been easy. Yet somehow the dark forces of history never quite could extinguish a very special spark, one that was always linked to a sense of purpose in the world…
…I know in my kishkas that we have in a broad sense failed when Hamas and Islamic Jihad can cultivate a Cult of Death where children are dressed in costumes of suicide terrorists and eventually grow up to blow themselves up amid Jewish and Arab Israeli children. It is not just the horrific reincarnation of child sacrifice in the cradle of civilization, but the failure is marked by a world that is largely indifferent to trespassing over a line that we participated in drawing long ago. The evil lunacy of the President of Iran’s nuclear threats against the Jewish state is not exactly actively opposed by most governments and people on the planet, based on actions and not just statements. There are a million children in the State of Israel who have been threatened directly and believably.
If the challenges are global, then our best responses are also global. Maybe even universal, which I think is broader than global since universal in my mind transcends time itself. And unless the Moshiah comes any time soon, we’re in this for the long run and should plan accordingly and strategically. Are we ready to exploit globalization for our moral agenda and as a trademark of a 21st century notion of Peoplehood?
Coming soon: The limitations of religion as the central defining force