Putting Aside That Old Jewish Pessimism

Potpourri of Predictions for 2014

By Yehuda Kurtzer

Published January 06, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

It is still surprising — funny, even — that a people that has survived and thrived through millennia filled with cataclysms can still find itself debilitated by anxiety about its future, and especially by such concerns as banal as, say, the impending retirement of the generation of baby boomer CEOs running Jewish organizations.

This past year seemed to have been a big one for this kind of anxiety, as well as pessimism about the passage of time. It is as though the great equilibrium between understanding the past and mapping the future — the secret sauce that has enabled Judaism to evolve dramatically while preserving a sense of continuity — went off-kilter.

And there were some good reasons for this anxiety: financial improprieties and scandals in organizational life, the usual changing of the guard, and some institutions clearly dealing with the fallout of outliving their natural lives.

But among this year’s losses was also the passing of two titans, David Hartman and Edgar Bronfman, whose shared legacy provides us with some guidance. Different in so many ways, what they shared in common was a deep belief in young people, and an optimistic willingness to invest in them, empower them, and to let them become co-creators in a Jewish future that would be necessarily different from the one they inherited.

Jewish anxiety — one of our cottage industries — will probably not go anywhere soon; but perhaps it can become more productive, and translate less directly into pessimism for the Jewish future. How great would it be if 2014 became the year of our remembering that we know how to do this, and our getting back to the “preserving while innovating” business that makes Judaism go round?

Yehuda Kurtzer is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and the author of “Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.