What tliese people have in commonrnwith Prodi’s iiiuch-vannted commitmentrnto Christian vahies remains a mystery.rnNo less of a mystery is how he hopes torn”revive the Chrishan soul of Europe” —rnthe hasic message of his latest book—byrnplaying into the hands of those whose primaryrnobject has always been to destroy itrnonce and for all.rnAlberto Carosa is an Italian journalist.rnLetter FromrnInner Israelrnhy ]acob NeusnerrnSince rm Jewish,rnThis Must Be JudaismrnWlien religion becomes a matter of personalrnopinion, culture-which by definitionrnis public and corporate —no longerrndefines what is eternally at stake in man’srnrelahonsJiip to God. Ethics and moralityrngive way to impulse and whim, and sentimentalityrnrides. Private religion appealsrnto the feeling of the moment, and, underrnsuch conditions, learning and traditionrnno longer govern. Wliat is gained in thernattunement of religion to the moment isrnvastly outweighed by what is lost —therntraditions of Western civilization.rnWith stress on a personal and acute-rnIv present-tense encounter with JesusrnChrist, Protestant Christianity, particularlyrnthe left-wing of the Reformationrnchurches, pioneered the privatization ofrnreligion but cannot be accused of its trivialization.rnThe conviction that the “I”rnforms the criterion of all things is arngrotescpie misunderstanding of thernProtestant conscience of Luther at Wittenberg.rnIn the case of evangelical Christianity,rnreligious individualism insists thatrnjesus Christ intervenes in each person’srnlife, hi the ease of Reform Judaism, bornrnin the heart of evangelical Christianity inrnGerman}’ and responsive to the languagernand theology of Luther, there is a stressrnon what tlie individual finds personallyrnmcaningfid in religious observance. Sornbotli evangelical Christianity and ReformrnJudaism secure a place for the radicallyrnisolated individual, for the integrityrnof his conscience, and for individualrnrights in the encounter with Cod, all ofrnwhich characterize the religious bias ofrnAmericans.rnBut in this country, with our culturalrnbias against history and tradition and ourrnrejection of social authority in favor of individualrnautonomy, the acute trivializationrnof individualism has made a mockeryrnof the courage of Luther and thernbravery of the early reformers of Judaismrnwho, in the 19th century, thought aboutrnJudaic matters in a way without precedentrnsince Sinai, finding room for the “I”rnof the individual Israelite among thern”we” of “all Israel,” the corporate, holyrnpeople of God.rnThe practice of Judaism in contemporaryrnAmerica, which has carried to its logicalrnextreme the conviction that everythingrnbegins with me, personally, thisrnmorning, here and now, has shown therngrotesque possibilities of the privatizationrnof religion. Indeed, it is the unique amalgamrnof the religious and the ethnic in therncorporate life of Jewish Americans, whornare Jewish and therefore regard themselvesrnas primary data for the definition ofrnJudaism, that embodies those possibilities.rnStated simply, if “Judaism” is “thernreligion of the Jewish people,” then whateverrnreligion the Jewish people practice isrn”Judaism.” And then . . . get out of thernway, because here comes the do-it-yourself-rnJudaism that supersedes Reform, corruptsrnConservative, and baffles OrthodoxrnJudaism.rnA concrete example of the ethnic definitionrn—since I’m Jewish, what I do is Judaismrntout court—comes from Clearwater,rnthe Jerusalem of west-central Florida.rnA local synagogue, Temple B’nai Israel,rnhas invented a new religious rite for itselfrnThirty years ago. Rabbi Arthur Basemanrnstarted what he called “the chain of tradition.”rnHe gave silver ID bracelets tornyoung people who were completing theirrnreligious education at the temple. Ihevrnwore them. Then they linked them togetherrnand carried them to the altar; thernbracelets were “blessed” and put into thernark, along with the scrolls of the Torah.rnTliere are now 571 bracelets linked togetiier,rnreports Maureen Byrne in the St.rnPetersburg Times. Baseman explained,rn”It deepens my faith in the continuitv’ ofrnJudaism and the viability of the people.rnWe speak of a chain of tradition in Judaismrnfrom generation to generation.rnWe will pass on our tradition, one link atrna time.”rnRabbi Baseman invokes a key image ofrnJudaism: “a chain of tradition,” which isrnrepresented as the teaching of Moses tornJoshua, Joshua to the prophets, thernprophets to the sages, and onwardrnthrough time to “the oral Torah,” thernteachings of the rabbis of the Mishnahrnand the Midrash and the Talmud—andrnthence to us. But the tradition that isrnpassed on in a chain from Sinai consistsrnof religious teachings; for example, Hillel’srnfamous saying, “If I am not for myself,rnwho will be for me? And if I am onlyrnfor myself, what am I? And if not now,rnwhen?” That is tradition: content.rnI do not believe that, in the centuriesrnsince Sinai, anyone before Rabbi Basemanrnever imagined that by “tradition”rnpeople coidd mean putting names on IDrnbracelets and making the bracelets into arnchain.rnJacob Neusner is Distinguished ResearchrnProfessor of Religious Studies at thernUniversity of South Florida and arnprofessor of religion at Bard College.rnI— LIBERAL ARTS —irnTHERE’S NO FUTURErnIN THE PASTrn”U nlike so much of Britain’s image,rnwhich is reserved and fullrnof history and dead monarchs, thernI Millennium I Dome is 20 acres ofrnbra.sh modernity meant to celebraternBritish innovation…. The aim of thernexhibitions, its promoters say, is to answerrnthree questions: Who are we,rnwhere do we live, and what do we do?rnThe Dome’s defenders sa) its exlnibitionsrnreflect a multicultural, multiracialrnBritain that is not represented byrnits most famous institutions andrntourist attractions.rn”‘Most every place you go tells yournwhat the UK used to be. The Domernexperience is about where the UK isrnnow, and to celebrate where we’rerngoing,’ said Adam Liversage, one ofrnthe two dozen tweutysomethingrnguides hired to explain to the pressrnand the public what the Dome is.rnTeoplc know about Sliakespeare andrnQueen Victoria. But that’s not whatrnBritain is today, and it’s not wherernwe’re going in the future.”rn—from the Boston Globern(December 28. 1999)rnMARCH 2000/41rnrnrn