Did the Holocaust’s shadow give Progressive Jews such a fear of dying that they cling to a political ideology promising (but not delivering) peaceful death?
A theory that popped into my mind yesterday that may help explain the mystery of the Progressive Jew, a person who clings desperately to the Democrat party despite the party’s escalating hostility to Jews and Israel. I wonder if it’s all tied into the way in which the Holocaust weighs on Jews of my generation.
I got started on this line of thinking because an old, although not terribly close, friend of mine died yesterday. When I say “old,” I don’t mean chronologically old. He was my age — mid-50s — which I consider to be on the slightly younger side of middle-age. (Perhaps that’s wishful thinking.) His death was also not entirely unexpected, because it was a recurrence of a problem he’d had before and was fighting for years.
My friend is not the first of the increasingly frequent brushes with mortality that are intertwining with my life. The older generation — parents, relatives, colleagues, all in their 80s and 90s — are passing away with relentless frequency. That’s to be expected. What’s more disturbing for me is the number of people, such as my deceased friend, who are my age and succumbing to cancer, heart disease, the effects of substance abuse, and other ills that start chasing us as we age.
What I’ve noticed is that my religious friends face death differently than my non-religious friends. They’re not resigned, which indicates a lack of hope, but they’re philosophical and that philosophy melds with the hope, allowing them to focus on the treatment process without too much fear. They see themselves as part of a greater plan, with God as their partner. If this plan denies them recovery, Christians look to the promise of Heaven; Jews put their faith in the final resurrection.
In contrast, my atheist friends have nothing to hang on to. The Grim Reaper is threatening them without rhyme or reason and then, at the end, there’s nothing.
I think, though, that there’s an added twist for many contemporary secular Jews when they consider death. By the way, when I say “secular,” I’m including non-Orthodox Jews who follow the outward form of worship in reform and “lite” conservative synagogues. They belong to a Temple, they attend on the High Holy days, and they probably send their kids to Sunday school . . . but they don’t believe in God. For them, these are rituals that tie them to their childhood communities, that fulfill a long for tradition, and that are a strong part of their Jewish identity. [Read more…]