Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Resist junk food journalism. Support journalism that nourishes the mind and soul by contributing to our year-end campaign today.

First Things is good for the Jews. I know few students of the Jewish and Western traditions more erudite than Shalom Carmy, whose essays on the theology of anger, on Judaism and liberalism, and on the Israeli poet Nathan Alterman are wonderful and lucid and learned. I know few writers with a more, well, catholic set of interests than David P. Goldman––read him on T. S. Eliot’s aesthetic anti-Semitism and why there’s no Jewish Tolkien. And I’m not aware of a debate about memory, morality, and the Holocaust as humane and at the same time as profound as this exchange between Andreas Lombard and Michel Gurfinkiel.

Were it only a journal of religious writing, First Things would be distinguished for its scholarly content, its clear prose, and its focus on what always have been and always will be the most important matters––what does God want from each of us as men and as women, as sons and as daughters, as friends and work colleagues and citizens? To a great extent, these subjects, or at least the sources that can be legitimately consulted in inquiries into these subjects, will divide us by faith tradition. I consult the Talmud and not Anselm when thinking about how to live, and my Christian friends do the reverse. First Things has always hosted and will continue to host these parallel inquiries.

But there is a further task, in some ways a more delicate one, to which First Things is also dedicated: Figuring out what to do with those Abraham Lincoln termed “the almost chosen people”––Americans. America is officially a universalist project, dedicated (again quoting Lincoln) to the proposition that all men are created equal. America has tried to prove that it can get men of the many religions and races and nationalities of the world to live together not only tolerably but respectfully, harmoniously, and honorably.

But what of those who will not be reckoned among the nations—the Jews? Are the Jews of America condemned to live forever alienated from the majority Christian nation which has, more than any other, welcomed Jews to its shores? Will they be totally absorbed and cease to be Jews? Is it possible that American Jews could teach their fellow Americans to see some splendid particularity in their vocation of welcoming the world’s outcast into one polity, while respecting those outcast enough not to simply swallow up their distinctive histories, languages, and faiths? Would America survive such a teaching?

Who knows? At any rate, I think these are questions to be pondered. First Things ponders them well––Jews and Catholics and evangelicals and Muslims together. If you think that’s worthwhile, be a mensch, and donate to First Things.

Cole S. Aronson is an MA candidate in philosophy at Hebrew University and a Krauthammer fellow with the Tikvah Fund. 

Resist junk food journalism. Support journalism that nourishes the mind and soul by contributing to our year-end campaign today.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles