Oct 17, 2011

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Zionism and Non-Orthodox Jews

So many interesting questions keep pouring in, so I'm just going to keep on rolling through them. The variety is amazing, and the thought put into the question is impressive. You guys never cease to amaze me!

What do you think of Zionism? Are you a Zionist?
What do I think of Zionism? Well, I think that it was/is a powerful movement that was/is necessary for the establishment/maintenance of the State of Israel. Zionism itself was always a political movement meant to secure a national homeland for Jews of all stripes, and that homeland happens to be the biblical and modern Israel. So I think it's awesome, necessary, and without it, I think there would be fewer self-identified Jews in the world because there wouldn't be something binding us all in a physical manner.

As for whether I'm a Zionist, that's a good question, and the answer is yes. I think that a lot of the original understandings of Zionism and the reasoning and necessity for a Jewish homeland have been lost throughout the years, and sometimes I wonder if we're in a post-Zionist world, but then I'm reminded daily of the hatred of Jews that still exists and how important a homeland truly is. I do, however, think that sometimes the terminology is abused in order to validate actions by both Jews and the government of Israel.
What's you're beef with non Orthodox Jews?
My beef? I wasn't aware that I had a beef with non-Orthodox Jews. After all, more of this blog's history is probably devoted to me as a non-Orthodox Jew than an Orthodox Jew. My stance has always been that everyone's on a journey and everyone needs to travel at their own pace. As long as it's up, we're all in a good place. If you want to clarify, add a comment or re-ask your question, and feel free to cite specific instances that gave you the impression I wasn't down with my non-Orthodox folks.
What is your definition of Tzniut?
I hate to simply copy and paste, but I wrote back in my response to The Tzniut Project the following. (Also, you can read more about my take on tzniut here.)

For me, the first thing I think of is, "Where does it come from? What does it mean? Why do we do it?" I suppose it's only natural that I'm plagued with questions from square one. It's easy for me to explain to people why we cover our hair (the sotah portion) and why we cover as much or as little as we do. But when it comes to clothing and speech and thought, it's a lot harder. As many others have said, it's a type of lifestyle, but lifestyle sounds too much like choice to me, and for me, yes I choose to do it, but the outline of what's to be done is less of a choice. Tzniut means more than modesty, it means living your life in a way that others wish to emulate. Making your modest clothes look beautiful, to emanate inner beauty, to carry yourself in thought and speech in a way that others say "Wow, if that's what tzniut is, then count me in." It's being a light, really, unto all people. It's being humbled before haShem and all that's been provided us.

From Micah 6:8:
הגיד לך אדם מה טוב ומה יי דורש ממך כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת עם יי 
HaShem told you what is good and what is required of you: do justly, love mercy (loving-kindness), and walk humbly (modestly) with HaShem.

The word used -- הצנע (ha'tznea) -- is the same word/root for tzniut. So, basically HaShem is saying "Walk this way."


Larry Lennhoff said...

Non Orthodox Jews may be headed to a different destination than Orthodox Jews - an egalitarian and diverse place where halacha is updated to match modern social needs and mores. And that's fine with me. I wanted to point this out because the "journey" metaphor seems to me to carry the implication we're all heading towards traditional observance, and that isn't the case.

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions and great responses. It's so cool that you're sharing all this information.

As a reform Jewish person, I don't follow the Torah or the laws of Kashrut to the letter. My faith is something that I have been trying to figure out for my entire adult life and will continue on that path. I don't know that the path will lead me to Orthodoxy, but if it does, than so be it. I am learning daily to let go and let G-d.

Batya said...

Chavi, you're doing a great service by posting this.

redsneakz said...

Chavi, I'm going to be a little bit bold here, and I don't know whether this borders on lashon hara or even G-d forbid a chillul Hashem; if it is, do feel free to delete it.
Modern Zionism, from how I understand it, was at first explicitly an non-religious, and in some cases anti-religious, movement. It largely sought to distance itself explicitly from Central and Eastern European Judaism. Herzl and others were rightly concerned with the preservation of the Jewish people in the light of the Dreyfus affair and the vicious persecution of Eastern and Central European Jews, but didn't seem to care so much for bringing Torah Jews to Israel.

Anonymous said...


Your assessment of early Zionism is correct, but I don't see why that precludes a religious Jew being a Zionist. There's nothing wrong with accepting one viewpoint held by a person (or persons) while rejecting others. Case in point, the kibbutzim in Israel that seem to be the least affected by creeping capitalism are the religious kibbutzim—a concept that would have been anathema to the early socialist Zionists.

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