By Daniel J. Elazar
This revised and up-to-date variation of group and Polity examines the adjustments occurring in local people federations and within the national federation flow, the decline of the mass-based businesses, the shift within the types and association of Jewish schooling, the alterations happening within the synagogue activities, and the issues of Jewish harmony generated via intermovement festival.
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In this respect the biblical account of God’s instruction to Abraham to leave his family’s home and kith and move to a new land and the subsequent Israelite exodus from Egypt to return to that land are paradigms of the effects of migration on the demythologization of a people. When they converted to Christianity, the communities of southern Europe, which did not migrate, simply adapted their mythic world view to the terminology and basic demands of the Church. They continued to endow the same local features and shrines with divinity, transforming them into points of association with saints.
That bond is based upon mutual obligations and a commitment to undertake joint action to achieve certain defined ends, which may be limited or comprehensive, under conditions of mutual respect in such a way as to protect the fundamental integrity of all the parties involved. A covenant is much more than a contract—although our modern system of contracts is related to the covenant idea—because it involves a pledge of loyalty beyond that demanded for mutual advantage, often involving the development of a certain kind of community among the partners to the covenant and ultimately based upon their moral commitment.
What follows is a discussion—incomplete, to be sure—of how the American Jewish community has responded to the problems of transforming the passive bonds of kinship into active associational ties based on the bonds of consent; how the community’s responses have been stimulated by the “sixth sense” that makes Jews aware of their common interests; and how the responses themselves relate to traditional patterns of Jewish organization. The thrust of this discussion is generally optimistic, perhaps overly so given demographic realities.