Our Jewish Community Pattern and Its Critics:
Why Single, Central Authority Is Not For Us
“They order this matter better in France.” Two centuries ago Laurence Sterne began the record of his Sentimental Journey across the Channel with these words, and provided the text for all later critics of manners and morals in their own countries. Critics of the way in which American Jews conduct their communal affairs are not different. The way American Jews do things is wrong, they say, and we should learn from other Jewish communities how to do them.
From the point of view of communal organization, American ews differ in a major respect from those of all other countries that have significant Jewish communities. Jews in other countries have central communal bodies possessing generally the kind of authority that comes with legal standing, long tradition, or general assent. American Jews, on the other hand, have no recognized central organ of self-rule with authority to speak for all Jews as Jews.
What is the reason for this difference?
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