Culture Not Central


In his Letter (Jan. 20), Mark Jones posits that, though “participation in Jewish culture and society” is important, belief in God is not essential. He concludes, ironically, that Jewish critical thinking has led the majority of Jews to that “rational” conclusion.

While tradition and culture are valuable elements of Jewish identity, the idea that they are the critical as unifying components of Judaism is a narrow, self-important perspective at best. What is central to the culture of a Jew with an Eastern European heritage, for example, may have little or no significance to one whose roots are in Baghdad or Syria. The reliance on fleeting cultural tastes would indeed be a poor substitute for the universally Jewish tenets of the Torah, which has transcended our geographic and cultural dispersion over two millennia.

I’m always amazed that people who pride themselves on being “critical thinkers” find it so difficult to imagine that there is a level of truth that may be beyond our limited intellectual grasp. Historically, the fact that a majority of any group maintains an opinion is by no means proof that it’s true. It took some time and sacrifice by unique thinkers to establish that the world is not flat and revolves around the sun.