CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnInner Israelrnby Jacob NeusnerrnContinental Judaism, R.I.P.rnReligions may explode in human historyrn—Christianity conquering Rome inrnscarcely 300 years, Islam the Mediterraneanrnbasin in scarcely a century. Butrnthey die only here and there, only nowrnand then, and renew themselves in timesrnand circumstances none can predict.rnGod has a good sense of humor and arnstill better understanding of ourselvesrnthan we can hope to have. Spending lastrnPurim (March 22) in Prague gave merngood reason to think about what happensrnwhen a religion dies, as Judaism hasrndied or is dying, not for demographic butrnfor religious reasons, in Prague and inrnmost of continental Europe, includingrnall of Scandinavia, Germany, Italy,rnSpain, the Low Gountries—everywherernexcept for Britain and France.rnWho killed continental Judaism?rnHitler did much of the work, Stalin finishedrnthe job (with—among many othersrn—his willing Jewish-communist collaborators).rnJudaism flourishes in manyrnforms and in many places, but one of thernenduring legacies of Nazism and communismrnis the utter death of Judaism inrnmost of continental Europe. Apart fromrnFrance and Britain—the one communityrnrebuilt after the Algerian conflict byrnFrench-speaking, highly educated, Jewsrnfrom Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco; thernother untouched by Hitler or Stalin—nornJewish community in continental Europernpreserves and practices Judaism in arnmanner appropriate to that religion’srnteachings. Having lectured under universityrnand Jewish auspices from Madridrnto Helsinki, Rome to Stockholm,rnUtrecht and Antwerp to Prague, and everywherernin between, I know whereof Irnspeak.rnWhat makes me wonder whether thernreligion, Judaism, finds practitioners inrnthe lands occupied by the Germans inrnWorld War II and especially in the landsrnruined by the Russians afterward? Takernthree norms of the faith. First comesrnhospitality to strangers, which the Talmudrnvalues in the tradition of Abrahamrnand the angels. Second comes study ofrnthe Torah, which according to the tractaternof the Mishnah called “the Fathers”rnman is created to do. Third comesrnprayer and respect for the act of prayer; inrnmany synagogues “know before whomrnyou stand” is written above the ark containingrnthe Torah-scrolls.rnThe ferocious inhospitality of continentalrnEuropean synagogues (again: exceptrnthe British and the French, and inrnsome places, Stockholm and Berlin forrninstance) is famous in the Jewish world.rnEverybody knows the story. It is not thernnecessity of armed guards to protect thernworshipers from Arab bullets andrnbombs, but the incapacity of local Jewsrneven to greet new faces in attendance.rnContinental European Jews serve largernhelpings of cold shoulder. Whether inrnFrankfurt or in Berlin or Prague orrnMadrid or Helsinki, neither clergy norrnlaity greets strangers in any way, exceptrnwith scowls and turned backs.rnWhat about Torah study? Notrnmarked by learning or interest, continentalrnJewry is wholly unable to participaternin the study of the sacred books, exhibitingrna complete indifference to thernacademic presentation of these books forrna world of cultured people. One cannotrnpoint to a single intellectually distinguishedrnrabbi in all of continental Europern(with the repeated exceptions), andrnmost of the scholarship on Judaism thatrnis published comes from Gentiles, Europernis populated by Chief Rabbis, notrnone of whom (outside of Britain orrnFrance) enjoys moral authority or evenrnpretends to the dignity of learning. All ofrnthem impress by their ferocious condemnationrnof everyone beyond theirrnrange of vision and uncomprehendingrnrejection of any idea they did not invent,rnof which, in fact, there is none,rnI state very simply that the rabbinaternof continental Europe is the first largernrabbinate in the history of Judaism thatrnuttedy lacks learning, except perhaps inrnthe technicalities of worship and thernslaughter of chickens. As for hospitality,rnI know from personal experience: when Irnattended the Worid Congress of Familiesrnorganized by The Rockford Institute inrnPrague last March, and my wife and Irnwanted to attend the Purim worship atrnthe principal synagogue there, we werernturned away at the door; foreigners arernnot wanted. We could not perform ourrnreligious obligation of hearing the scrollrnof Esther read; we were Americans andrntherefore excluded. We could go to thernsecond floor, in the same communityrncenter, where an American Conservativernrabbi explained the scroll of Esther butrnwas not allowed by the local rabbi (a convertrnto Judaism) to read it from start tornfinish. This would not fulfill our religiousrnduty.rnBut the conduct of people at worshiprnspeaks eloquently about the state of theirrnfaith in prayer, and it suffices to say, fromrnthe evidence of how they behaved, thatrnthey believe nothing. Some examples: inrnMadrid, on a Sabbath morning, whenrnmy family attended the public proclamationrnof the Torah-lection for the Sabbath,rnpeople surrounding the lectern engagedrnin conversations throughout thernscriptural lesson, except for those engagedrnin reading the morning papers. InrnAbo, Finland, the week after Passoverrnsome years back, the Orthodox synagoguernthere decided not to take the sacredrnscrolls out of the ark and read them,rnthe responsible person being too tired tornbother to learn the passage; but it is principallyrnto hear the Torah declaimed thatrnone bears the obligation of attendingrnpublic worship at all. Everything else is arndetail. In Prague on the festival ofrnPurim, people attending the public readingrnof the scroll of Esther simply walkedrnout in the middle of the reading, leavingrnnot in ones and twos but in fives andrntens, exiting from a small room the onlyrnway they could, which was to walk withinrnthree feet of the rabbi as he read fromrnthe scroll. So far as I could tell, they werernnot even embarrassed.rnThere is not a single Orthodox, Reform,rnor Conservative synagogue in thernState of Israel where such conduct wouldrn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn