Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen and Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson on Purim and Judaism in an Open Society

This week’s Purim holiday offers a good opportunity to reflect upon the challenges confronting Judaism in North America — a Diaspora, like ancient Shushan, where Jews enjoy enormous influence and achievement in a multicultural society but where Jewish well-being seems far from secure.

The threat in our time comes not from anti-Semitism like that of the wicked Haman, but from assimilation to a society where every door is open to Jews. The best way to meet that challenge lies in engaging the world rather than walling ourselves off from it; stirring heart, mind and spirit with experiences of welcoming community and transcendent meaning. The mix of joy and profundity Jews experience at Purim offers an excellent example of the way to guarantee the Jewish future in an open, diverse culture. The holiday’s message is a far cry from the positions taken by some defenders (and opponents) of faith in 21st century America, whose rhetoric of doom, exclusivism and intolerance must not be permitted to carry the day.

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