Episode 16: Intermarriage and the Future - Paul Golin

Paul Golin, noted thinker and writer, past Associate Executive Director of Big Tent Judaism, and administrator of the Jewpanese Facebook page, joins Dan and Lex for the second episode of our Intermarriage: The New Normal series. We examine the role that intermarriage plays in the Jewish world today and broaden our conversation to discuss trends affecting the Jewish present and future more generally. 

(0:01 - 10:28): Paul Golin reflects on Benay Lappe's "Crash" Theory (which she presented in Episode 3 of our podcast), looking back on his own crash -- his rejection of major tenets of Judaism as a child -- and he critiques the prominent tendency among Jewish institutional leaders to talk about "the intermarried" as a single broad group. [1]

(10:29 - 22:14): Building on the concept of privilege, Golin explores the harmful role that the idea of people "looking Jewish" [2] plays in the Jewish world. [3] He also introduces the idea of "born-Jewish privilege." [4] Ultimately, he asserts, we need to ask (and answer) the question "why be Jewish," arguing that most of the concerns expressed about "Jewish continuity" and perceived threats to it, would be alleviated if Jews really had a sense that being Jewish contributed meaningfully to the lives they want to lead. [5] 

Image Credit: www.tested.com

Image Credit: www.tested.com

(22:15 - 34:29): Golin lays out the reasons that the High Holidays can be a difficult time for intermarried individuals and their loved ones, along with his own distance from Jewish spaces that center on prayer. He pushes against the idea that Judaism must be one's primary or sole identity, embracing the fact that in 21st Century America, identities are incredibly nuanced and multi-faceted. [6] [7]

Image Credit: Jewpanese - Where Jewish and Japanese Converge Facebook Page

Image Credit: Jewpanese - Where Jewish and Japanese Converge Facebook Page

(34:30 - 47:21): We look to the future, asking Golin what he thinks Judaism could look like in 100 years. We explore contemporary notions of universalism and particularism and the extent to which particularism can become tribalism. We deepen this conversation through the example of philanthropic giving, where we discuss the belief by some that Jews should prioritize giving to Jewish organizations over giving to "universalistic" causes. [8]

[1]  In the course of this segment of our conversation, Golin mentions a facebook group that he oversees, called Jewpanese - Where Jewish and Japanese Converge.

[2] This recent Huffington Post article, which references Golin, expands on the issues presented by the idea of "looking Jewish."

[3] The idea of "looking Jewish" relates to a concept referred to as "Ashkenormativity," which Jonathan P. Katz's expands on in this piece in The Forward

[4] To read more of Golin's thoughts on "Born-Jewish privilege" read this 2010 article that he authored.

[5] We briefly allude to Irwin Kula's idea of "Judaism as a technology" in this segment of the show. For more, watch the video on the left featuring Kula, entitled "Innovation in the Technology of Religion."

[6] Professor Shaul Magid expands on the changing nature of American identity, including the idea of "post-ethnicity" in Episode 13 of our Judaism Unbound podcast.

[7] For more of Golin's "Futurology," read an essay he wrote entitled "Judaism and the Singularity: Using Futurism to Predict Possible Trajectories of Jewish Identity and Community"

[8] Rabbi Rebecca Wolitz Sirbu wrote a piece for eJewish Philanthropy that expands on these questions.