The Democratization of Judaism

There is a historical motif where authority is challenged after information is democratized.  People are exposed to new ways of thinking, the veil is lifted from their eyes, and they are made privy to the evils that haunt them.  In response, they rebel against the authority that withholds information.  For instance, Martin Luther precipitated the Protestant Reformation, through his Ninety-Five theses, by challenging the behavior of authority, in this case indulgences.  This act, having made information available to the average mind, caused the greatest philosophical revolution in the history of Christianity.  Similarly, Maoism sought to expose the truth of the exploitation of lower classes to foment rebellion.  A similar theme of democratization of information is currently taking place within the Jewish world, but with a vastly different outcome.

It seems like this happened already in Judaism, in the Reform Movement.  I would argue, however, that post-enlightenment reform thinking had the opposite effect as other reformation’s and pulled the veil of informed religious thinking over the eyes of the populace.  Perhaps it didn’t happen immediately, but the ultimate effect of anti-religious thinking in 19th century Germany is that the current generation is frustrated at its lack of fundamental Jewish knowledge.  In effect, the Reform Movement did not motivate an intellectual reformation; it simply prevented potential religiosity in future generations.

The real reformation in Judaism is happening right now.  Information, however, is not democratized by the revelation of a single individual, like Mao Tze Tung or Martin Luther, it is the internet which allows for Jews to drastically change the landscape of religious thinking.  In the case of the Jews, access to knowledge has increased religiosity, a totally unique phenomenon.  Now, Jewish youth around the world have more access to Jewish information than ever before, and they are in turn becoming more religious.

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