Continental Judaism, R.I.P.

Religions may explode in human history—Christianity conquering Rome in scarcely 300 years, Islam the Mediterranean basin in scarcely a century. But they die only here and there, only now and then, and renew themselves in times and circumstances none can predict. God has a good sense of humor and a still better understanding of ourselves than we can hope to have. Spending last Purim (March 22) in Prague gave me good reason to think about what happens when a religion dies, as Judaism has died or is dying, not for demographic but for religious reasons, in Prague and in most of continental Europe, including all of Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Low Countries—everywhere except for Britain and France.

Who killed continental Judaism? Hitler did much of the work, Stalin finished the job (with—among many others—his willing Jewish-communist collaborators). Judaism flourishes in many forms and in many places, but one of the enduring legacies of Nazism and communism is the utter death of Judaism in most of continental Europe. Apart from France and Britain—the one community rebuilt after the Algerian conflict by French-speaking, highly educated, Jews from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco; the other untouched by Hitler or Stalin—no Jewish community in continental Europe preserves and practices Judaism in a manner appropriate to that religion's teachings. Having lectured under university and Jewish auspices...

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