How do Jews and Israel fit into a postmodern world?

Arutz Sheva speaks to Dr. Ronen Shoval about how to deal with the positives of the postmodern world without being consumed by the negatives.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Dr. Ronen Shoval
Dr. Ronen Shoval
Arutz Sheva

In a postmodern world where right and wrong are no longer clear and where bad and good are relative, how does a society with traditional values teach its children without ignoring what’s going on all around everyone?

This complicated question is something that Dr. Ronen Shoval, Dean of the Tikvah Fund & Head of the Argaman Institute, will be examining at a conference this week.

In an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva, Shoval discussed postmodernism and its impact on every part of 21st Century life.

“The absence of good and bad, right and wrong, it’s a phenomenon which we live inside, and we need to deal with it,” he said.

As much as we might try to ignore postmodernism, especially for people who value tradition, religion and traditional ways, the phenomenon has encroached upon every aspect of life. It’s to the point where it's no longer possible to not deal with the societal changes happening.

Shoval said that the takeaway from postmodernism is that there are two central ideas.

One: In a postmodern system there is an absence of truth and of big ideas and narratives that cement those big ideas.

Two: Postmodern ideas deal with looking for inequality and at the less powerful in society.

The educational question thus arises: “How can we educate our kids in a time when right and wrong are no longer clear?”

He explained that when dealing with the second aspect we need to be very smart and careful how we utilize the concept.

It is important to figure out what methods work and can inspire us to do better versus the ideas that are dangerous for Israel’s society and culture.

“Our ability to be very smart about what we adopt and what we decide not to adopt is the most important thing when you’re thinking about the educational problem of students,” he said.

For instance, if a teacher tells students that there is no history – that history is driven solely by agendas and isn’t true, a postmodern concept – then it is no longer possible to education students about history.

You need to be able to have a “big story” to teach students about what happened in the past, such as the founding of the State of Israel or the Holocaust.

“It’s a truth that we have truth,” Sheval said. “In the Bible we have 70 faces and not 71.”

He added, “We need to be able to tell different perspectives of the truth but we should find that there is a truth.”

This week’s conference will explore how Jews living a traditional life can deal with postmodernism, which is so everyday that it is no longer possible to ignore. “You can’t ignore reality, and say it’s not happening to me. It is happening to you.”

Shoval said that “the kind of challenges that are arising in our generation are different from what happened in the past” and that is what the conference will explore.

Turn on the TV, read a newspaper or a book, go to a website – postmodernism is everywhere.

“We can’t ignore the challenge. We have to give our students and teachers the challenge and identify what we can learn form it,” Shoval said.



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