Jewish Intellectual Identity – what is it?

Rabbinical guidelines define somebody’s Jewishness by being born in a Jewish family – both parents or at least a mother are Jewish. Is it enough for somebody to be born in a Jewish family to be identified as a Jew, or you have to do something to be a true Jew?
Strictly orthodox Jews believe the prayers are that you have do as a Jew and then God will respond and take care. Is it indeed true that God will take care of everything, or a Jew have to take care of everything following the God’s (in all possible God’s images) guidance?
Many Jews believe that Judaism can survive only in isolated Jewish communities and that spiritual collaboration with the whole world would lead to assimilation. If it is so, how we the Jews are going to build a better world for everybody without spiritual collaboration with the others?
The three spiritual strongholds of the Western World are: for the Jews – Jerusalem, for the Christians – the Vatican, for Moslems – Mecca. Is it enough for somebody to love Jerusalem – or even to reside there - to be identified as a Jew, or something else is in play?
Although Judaism is proclaiming we the Jews are the Chosen, we are afraid to defend this status and explain that it is a hard work to make our world a better place for everybody. Why is it so?
The Jews consider anti-Semitism as something absolutely negative. Could it be that anti-Semitism is a sort of “normal” reaction of the people who are forced – by the not-fatal force of persuasion – to changing their old habits?
Those questions are of great importance for the intellectual Jews who are questioning everything and trying to validate or disprove everything by reason while many other traditional Jews just follow the tradition without questioning.
The book “In search of Jewish Intellectual Identity In modern Judeo-Christian world: Personal intellectual journey to discovering Jewish identity (for Jews and Gentiles)” by Vladimir Minkov, published by Targum Press in Israel is addressing all those questions.
This book is a result of more than 30 years of observations and trying to understand how intellectual Jews understand the essence of being a Jew. They are the intellectual Jews living in the countries of the former Soviet Union, in the United States and in Israel.
Most of them do not think the Almighty demands steadfast compliance with life's unchanging halakhic rules. They believe that the rules have to be changing since the Almighty’s world is changeable by the Almighty design - the Almighty created the whole world constantly changing along the lines of His laws of Nature, and therefore the rules of human behavior have to be changing as well.
Attempts to find the answer to the question of Jewish intellectual identification began precisely when the author began to collaborate with different Jewish (and Gentile) religious, social and professional organizations immediately after his emigration to the United States from the former Soviet Union. He tried to get the answer to a question tormenting him during this collaboration: what are Jews and why do they garner such great attention from everyone – both friends and enemies? He received many answers, but not one of them satisfied him.
And he was not satisfied because the majority of responses were not very intellectual and boiled down to the following:
·         we the Jews are divided into various communities with different, and unfortunately dividing us, traditions
·         different traditions are rooted in different life experiences of different communities
·         if my community survives in spiritual competition with others, then the traditions of my community are true – of course for us
·         trying to accommodate the traditions of other communities comes to naught – it only brings disorder to our members
·         it is unnecessary to add intellectuality to our Jewish identification – they are completely different notions
·         and so forth.
And the author remained spiritually dissatisfied. And he began his own personal search for the answer to his question. He thinks he may suggest the answer and that answer is presented in this book.
This book is an attempt not to divide Jews as "correct" and "incorrect," but to find what unites them intellectually as Jews. Moreover, it is an attempt to show that there is a fundamental spiritual commonality between Jews and Christians, despite all the historic difficulties of living together. Furthermore, it is an attempt to find what unites Jews and Christians with all the others into a single mankind. Since a single mankind exists, there must be something spiritually the same thanks to which mankind spiritually exists, and there must be a power that created this mankind unity.
There must be a single connecting meaning in the existence of Jerusalem. And when Jews exclaim, "Next year in Jerusalem," this exclamation should not sound like a call for a trip and a change of one's residence.
Thousands of studies have been devoted to such philosophical ideas. But this book is not an overview of the ideas described in these studies. This book is an attempt to find in these ideas the Jewish identification and most of all, the role of Jews in our world, mostly being based on the thoughts and personal experience of the author himself. And the main thing here was an intellectual re-reading of the Torah and the numerous commentaries to it. Moreover, the opinions of numerous Orthodox and Liberal rabbis, as well as interviews and discussions with many intellectual Jews and Gentiles, both close to religion and far away from it, were a fundamental source. Of help were as well “no discussions” with some orthodox rabbis when they were refusing a discussion, providing an authoritarian answer or no-answer instead.
The reader will see no moral admonitions in this book in the form of interviews with rabbis or references to authoritative statements, because the thoughts cited here are not a compilation of authoritative assertions, but the personal understanding of the author himself. And because the author wanted to present everything in as compressed a form as possible so contemporary Jews trying to learn everything (and Gentiles trying to learn everything) would be able to understand what is being discussed at once without tiresome searches for the essence in traditional quotations and facts known to everyone.
This book is not an appeal to believe the authorities, though most often they are right. Mostly this book is an appeal to intellectual thought using one's own intellect obtained by each person individually from God, and not the intellect given by God to other people who honestly earned the title of authority.
Compliance with authorities leads to joining a crowd, collective or group. Compliance with one's own individual intellectual analysis leads to the affirmation of oneself equal "to the image of God the Creator."