Pride in American Jewish life, from the ivory towers to the country club greens, has centered on "Making It," as longtime Commentary Editor-in-Chief Norman Podhoretz unabashedly titled his 1968 memoir. More recently, popular oversized books like "Great Jewish Men" and "Great Jewish Women" adorn coffee tables and assure us that, though we disembarked from refugee ships, we have arrived. For the last 50 years, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg has railed that we ought to busy ourselves less with how many of us sit in the Senate or nab Nobel Prizes -- and more with how many can read a page of Talmud. Hertzberg notes that Podhoretz's memoir includes not a single reference to the Holocaust and that we have "made it" to a better than 50 percent intermarriage rate.
If you closed your eyes and sat very still, you could almost feel history unfolding last week in Conference Room No. 1 at national United Jewish Appeal headquarters in New York. One of the most broadly representative parliamentary bodies in organized American Jewish life was gathered to vote itself, in effect, out of existence.