My Jewish takeaway from the Seth Rogen Saga

There is one magical Jewish term that is a substitute for everything else in Judaism - at least to the Seth Rogens among us.

Rabbi Yotav Eliach ,

Torah reading
Torah reading
צילום: Kupat Hair

Seth Rogen is not a bad person, nor is he a self - hating Jew. He is a typical non practicing North American woke progressive, citizen of the world who happened to be born Jewish.

He is a non-practicing Canadian/American Jew. He was brought up by parents who were in his words “Radical Jewish Socialists.” He attended a Jewish Day school in Vancouver BC Canada called: Vancouver Talmud Torah Academy (Pre School through 7th grade.) The school’s missions statement states: “Vancouver Talmud Torah is an inclusive Jewish community day school committed to academic excellence and nurturing lifelong learners who engage the world through Jewish traditions and values”. He also attended a Socialist Zionist Summer camp called: Dror Ha Bonim. The Camp followed the ideals of the very secular anti-religious Shomer Ha Tzair Kibbutz movement in Israel.

Hence the main themes that ran through Seth Rogen’s upbringing as a child, as far as Judaism and Israel were concerned were: Socialist. Inclusive. and Secular. That is not what was is considered a Traditional Jewish upbringing by any stretch of the imagination. The ideals of the Torah and Halakha, and other Jewish sources seem to have been absent. As far as Israel was concerned it appears that the term Socialist was much more significant than the term Zionism.

It appears that all this non-traditional Jewish education that Seth Rogen had was confined to his younger years. Seth attended Point Grey Public High School in Vancouver. (He never attended College.) The Camp that Seth attended: Dror Ha Bonim (Presently called Camp Miriam.) is also a non-traditional Jewish setting where inclusion, Tikkun Olam and exploring one's Jewish Identity were the reasons for the Camps existence.


In Progressive Jewish circles the term “Tikun Olam” has more value than the entire Torah, Tanach, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, Jewish Holidays, Prayer, Traditions, Customs, Laws, History, Language and Jewish Nationhood combined.
This type of upbringing rarely if ever creates Jews who are connected to the values of the Torah and Halakha or to the idea of being part of a 4000 year old Nation that has its own very clear historical, cultural, religious, national, linguistic identity. Instead, it turns out Jews who are very connected to the ideas of modern-day Progressivism. Being Jewish for these Jews is synonymous with being Progressive, and there is one magical Jewish term that when repeated often enough makes everything it is connected to somehow Jewish. The magical term is: “Tikun Olam” – repairing the world. In Progressive Jewish circles the term “Tikun Olam” has more value than the entire Torah, Tanach, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, Jewish Holidays, Prayer, Traditions, Customs, Laws, History, Language and Jewish Nationhood combined.

I am not sure why so many in the Jewish Punditocracy decided that they had to respond to the statements made by Seth Rogen, including myself. More baffling to me is trying to learn some deep lessons as to what the Jewish world is supposed to make of Seth Rogens remarks. If there is a lesson, it’s a simple and sad one: When Jews abandon 4000 years of Traditional Judaism and replace it with something that is connected to the Zeitgeist but not to the true roots of Judaism: The Almighty, Torah, Tanach, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, Jewish History, Customs, Laws, Prayer, Traditions, Language and sense of Nationhood, it either fades out or leads to estrangement from all that is traditional and normative in Judaism.

Seth Rogen is precisely what I assume most of his fellow graduates of Vancouver Talmud Torah and fellow camp friends from Camp Dror Habonim (Today Camp Miriam) have grown up to be: Jews who are 21st Century Progressives, with all the trappings. Part of that is a rejection of God, Organized Religion, (except for Islam that for some reason receives a “dispensation”.) Nationalism, Borders, Capitalism (though this should be problematic for a millionaire like Seth Rogen and many of his Hollywood Progressive friends), respect for the Police, admiration for the Military, and true equality – judging all people based on their behavior and demeanor as opposed to which “intersectional” sub group they are part of. (Note: There is a hierarchy of how oppressed you are based on which intersectional group or groups you belong to. The more groups you belong to the more oppressed you are, and the more you have coming to you.)

As a cultivated Progressive and I suspect a Woke progressive, Seth Rogen is totally in line with what he has been taught and what he has experienced in his life. Included in that world view is a very negative view of Judaism – an organized religion, and Zionism – a form of nationalism.

Those who write about North American Jewry have to understand and accept this reality -fact. Seth Rogen is not an anomaly. He represents the majority. A majority that is sadly, slowly dissipating away like a fog. This is the result of at least a century of Jews in North America consciously moving away from traditional normative and Orthodox Judaism.

I would guess that those who were behind this move did not plan for this to create such high levels of intermarriage and such low levels of Jewish literacy. But that is what in fact has occurred. It is time to face the facts and focus on the sectors of North American Jewry that are still connected to traditional and normative Judaism in some way, or who are open to learning about it.

We need to strengthen their connection to this traditional normative Judaism, and to the re-established Jewish State of Israel, the very one our forefathers ruled for 1300 years (1273 BCE – 70 CE, minus the 586 – 515 BCE period.), the place that served as the backdrop to the Tanach, the land that we have been praying and yearning to return to since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

Rabbi Yotav Eliach is the principal at Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, New York and the author of Judaism Zionism and the Land of Israel - Dialog Press 2018




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