This was done in response to a colleague's questioning the lack of values in contemporary university or Jewish education. He was esp. concerned with the latter.
I am however, much more dyspeptic toward the Torah than you. Like the Quran, the Torah reflects its age. It is a wonderful root and I worry about the tree surviving unless the root is cared for. We need to Lubavitchers and Charedi. But, they do not nourish the traditions, the branches and fruit that have grown out of the tree for the last 1000 years or so.
It is that tree ..Spinoza, Gompers, Alinsky, the Mississippi three, Einstein, and yes, modern Israel, that I see as important. I see that tree as fragile. In the USA, Judaism is becoming too like the Judaism of fin de siecle Germany. Other than the charedi, what do we stand for other than bagels and Israel?
In my youth, we led the civil rights movement, we created the pivotal literature of the time.. and founded modern science. Today's American Jewish youth seem to have no noble goals. Where is Ginsberg when we need him and why are so many of the Bush team vin unsere?
In my opinion this is, in part because, we teach the wrong things .. including Torah. The Torah should be taught as what it is .. a historical document of great import for the world. Kids should learn about the authors, the role of Josiah and the effect of Babylon. The conflicts of the Hasmoneans and mystery of the great council should be staples of Jewish education leading up to the Pharisees and the confrontation with the Greeks and Romans that gave us ... the modern European world!
Kids should honor Hillel and Ben Zakai so they, the kids can understand who Paul was an how weird, form a Jewish sense, Paul's creation of Jesus was. The kids should learn about central Jewish ideas .. not a simply revealed in the Torah but as evolved by our great men and women.
And then we come to modern times. Jews have won more than 20% of the science Nobels yet no Hebrew school kid can name 1! The Mississippi three are, if anything, white kids. Contemporary Jewish writers? I guess I can name Krugman and Friedman but no one is aware of their "roots." Spinoza might as well still be in cherem and the Ramban .. wasn't he Saladin's doctor? How many Hebrew School kids can name three Jewish Nobelists or describe the Jewish role in Civil rights, labor or South Africa?
Jewish history neglects "our" role in Andalusia, German liberalism, even our role as soldiers in WWII is neglected.
So kids get the Jewish version of the old testament stories, are taught a sort of JudeoChristianity, and visit Israel.
Why be Jewish?