“YOUNG, JEWISH AND LEFT”–changing the world

“Young, Jewish and Left”

Changing the World

Amos Lassen

What do queer culture, diversity, Jewish/Arab history, anti-racism, secular “Yiddishkiet”, leftist politics and religious/spiritual traditions have in common? Obviously a great deal according to a group of young Jewish left-wingers who feel it is partly their duty to repair the world. They aim to reframe Jewish identity by utilizing a fresh response to the issues that concern them as they strive to reach a balance between racism, spirituality, sexuality, Awareness, Zionism, resistance, liberation and social justice.

Their aim is to build more progressive organizations, new rituals and a more inclusive community imbued with a sense of pride. They draw their inspiration from the heroic Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of World War II and the Workmen’s Circle ( a communist and socialist organization which was popular among American Jews in the 50’s and 60’s). They are radical and they are proud and want to create a more real and just future. They spend time learning about and identifying with “a collective, rich Jewish heritage of reform and rebellion”. We are all well aware of the rising tide of right-wing religious fundamentalism that is exerting great influence on the United States and the world today. And if for no other reason than this, this documentary inspires.

The young people in this movie are those that came of age after the movements of the New Left of the 60’s and 70’s so they have not been tempered by the ideas of others. They have created a new ideology to which they subscribe in contrast with the historical context of the previous generations. They struggle with what it means to be Jewish today and envision set goals for those who will lead the Jewish community in the future. They are brave and outspoken and what they say is powerful ad very, very real.

We hear of their personal experiences and their fresh takes on ideas that we have been forced to deal with for ages and that might actually have solutions in the future. These very brave young people have set themselves on making a better world for al of us—not just Jews.

We meet Loolwa Khazoom, an Iraqi Jews who is editor of “Flying Camel: Identity of Woomen of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage”. She tells us how, when she was a student at an Amerian Hebrew school, her rabbi told her that it was sinful to use a Sephardi (non-European) Jewish book of prayer. (I was never aware that prayer was based upon country of origin—I knew the prayers were a bit different but it seems to me that prayer is prayer, no matter the language or origin).

Micha Bazant, a male, heaps praise upon new feminist possibilities within traditional Jewish patriarchal masculinity. He sees a future in the religion where women achieve the equality of man both in the community and in the eyes of G-d.

Shira Hazzan tells of how she and her partner who is transgender were “laughed out of the synagogue” and she therefore created a radical prayer book for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and then organized a “queer-positive” celebration”.

Even for non-Jews what these youngsters are doing is important as they bring about a new policy in which we all will be included. I cannot express the pride I feel now and felt when watching this youth as they set about repairing the world. Their message is strong and important and they are very brave individuals.

Young, Jewish and Left” is a wonderful cross-section of today’s youth as visionaries and activists. Likewise the film affirms the history of Jewish resistance and equality for all people. It criticizes the Jewish reactionaries who have done little to change ideas about occupation, resistance, homophobia and patriarchy and it calls the Left of today to task for not having a true understanding of Jewish history and culture. These young Jewish activists have wonderful stories about the motivations, the conflicts and the visions of injustice in society and these are stories that must be heard. Liberal Jews have often been ignored and have faced exclusion form both mainstream Judaism and society at large because of their progressivism and not just because of liberal political fabrication but because they voice discontent. The new radical thinking of these young people help to give us a safe space where the pretense of Jewish singularity is shattered and where Jews can be both Jews and citizens of the world on their own terms. I applaud them for this and for so much more.

This film can become a major tool to forge headway toward building a new and true Amerian Jewish identity–amend that to say world Jewish identity. The determination of these youngsters is empowering and we can hope that it will bring about a dialog which is lacking among Jews today. As a gay Jewish man who as felt exclusion many times, I am beginning to see rays of hope for al of us who have been ostracized for being what the world calls “different”. I have been able to make my place but how many have not? This knew radicalism can bring about a place for all of us.

A Judaism and world that is creative artistically and active in solidarity devoid of homophobia and racism may sound like a Utopia but if we work together it can come to fruition as is shown by the hope expressed in the film

“Young, Jewish and Left” shows empathically that the legacy of socialists ands anarchists, Yuppies and Hippies, organizers and agitators of the past are still very much alive and thinking. Long may they live!!

Now that people have political identities, they possess more fluidity. The Jewish ghettoes of America are no more and Jewishness has become fluid as well. The role of Israel in the world has changed as well as compared to the 50’s when the viability of a Jewish state was questionable. We no longer fear quick annihilation of the State of Israel and Israel has also become a huge military machine doing things that in may cases is unacceptable to the world at large(yes, I am really saying that). We must now take a careful look at ourselves, our homeland and our religion and act on those things we do not agree with. The world will change and we can only hope that we can all make it a better place.

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