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The Optimistic Jew: A Positive Vision For the Jewish People in the 21st Century [Paperback]

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Item description for The Optimistic Jew: A Positive Vision For the Jewish People in the 21st Century by Tsvi Bisk...

The purpose of this book is to stimulate imagination and activate energy and idealism in a Jewish contextto inspire the development of a 21st century Jewish paradigm as compelling as the 20th century Jewish paradigm that created the State of Israel and the extraordinary institutional structure of Diaspora Jewry. The 20th century model of Jewish life is no longer attractive or compelling for a growing number of young Jews (in Israel as well as in the Diaspora). The core theme of the book is that the global reality of the 21st century provides Israel and the Diaspora with the means to enable the self-actualization of the Jewish individual. The book suggests concrete ways and means by which the Jews might reinvent themselves and build a future that is noble and good, secure and flourishing, meaningful and worthwhile.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   276
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.6" Height: 0.4"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2007
Publisher   Maxanna Press
ISBN  1934515728  
ISBN13  9781934515723  

Availability  0 units.

More About Tsvi Bisk

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! TSVI BISK is founder and director of the Strategic Educational Planning Institute.

Tsvi Bisk was born in 1943.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > General
4Books > Subjects > Science > Technology > Futurology

Reviews - What do customers think about The Optimistic Jew: A Positive Vision For the Jewish People in the 21st Century?

A book all who care about the wellbeing of Israel and the Jewish people should read   Dec 20, 2007
The author opens in his preface by saying, "The purpose of this book is to stimulate imagination and activate energy and idealism in a Jewish context". He hopes to provide a vision of the Jewish future which will as he says 'build a new Jewish paradigm for the twenty- first century'.
I read a lot of books on Jewish subjects and found the idealism and inventiveness of the effort made here truly refreshing. The book is rich in description and analyses of the Jewish and most specifically Israeli situation and in prescriptions of how to change it for the better.
As for my father would have said I believe Tsvi Bisk " is thinking in the right way".
He does not wish to wallow in the past or in self- pity. He aims to move the Jewish people forward. Here he provides a vision of an economic and social revolution , a creative revolution in which Israel and the Diaspora will be true partners. He makes specific proposals for projects such as 'The Jewish Energy Project' ' The Tikkun Olam Boarding School Project' 'Urban Plantations' for new ways of cooperating together, of producing the kind of synergy between Israel and Disapora which will benefit the Jewish people as a whole.
In the course of the writing he presents dozens of ideas each of which is worth a lengthy consideration in itself. He connects the Jewish situation with the world - situation, with globalization and sees how a more creative Jewish people can make a real contribution to mankind. He cites Ben- Gurion and believes like him that the Jews to be a true light to themselves must be a light to the nations. And he says this while showing a real knowledge of the situation on the ground, the problems Israeli society faces in terms of income gap, poverty.
However with all my enthusiasm for this book and I do have great enthusiasm for it I have reservations about elements in it. At times Tsvi Bisk seems to give the sense that our situation has done nothing but improve with the years. He wants us to shift attention to the self- realization of individual Jews but nothing can change the difficult fact that the major problem Israel is still facing is 'survival'. The mentioning but not giving full weight to the security threats Israel faces from its neighbors and in fact from the Islamic world as a whole is the kind of optimism which borders on folly. It is wonderful to talk about self- fulfillment, but Israel has survived because thousands of young people have risked and many sacrificed their lives on the field of battle. I also while believing with Bisk that we should not remain mired in the past did not like the accusation of 'self- pity'. The Jewish people and so many Jews of recent generation have suffered such horrible losses that they are inevitably central in their consciousness.
The latter part of the book is an exercise in which the author looks back at Israel and the Jewish people from the year 2020 and points to all the positive developments that have happened in this time. Perhaps the idea is that by dreaming it you help it make it happen. I certainly hope most of what Bisk 'dreams' does happen. However between 'wishing' and 'making it so' the road is long indeed, especially in the Middle East.
On the whole, once again I believe this is an extremely valuable book which all those who care about Israel and the Jewish people should read.
Even if its predictions turn out mostly wrong and its plans not fully realized it is a step in the right direction.
review from Progressive Jew  Jul 28, 2007
Given the immense challenges facing the Jewish people today, a book entitled "The Optimistic Jew" would seem to be either a bad joke or wishful thinking. But it isn't. The title and the content grew from decades of deep thinking and study by futurist Tsvi Bisk, who points to a truly possible future for the Jews -- if we dare to hope for one and commit to making it happen. The author isn't stuck on his version of a future, and invites the reader to create a positive future that includes her/his own self-actualization. He leads by example - and the power of his example derives from values dear to the Jewish people: breadth and depth of learning, the courage to hold a redemptive vision, and down to earth practicality. Analyzing present world trends, understanding Jewish history, and rooted in the Zionism and the pragmatism of Ben Gurion, Tsvi Bisk shows us a path forward.

Some of us work to understand and mitigate the present threats to Israel's survival as a vibrant country and society, and the threats to Jews' sense of security and dignity in a world again rife with anti-Semitism. I call this work the "anti" work. Hard and painful as it is, it is essential work. But it acquires new meaning when we also work as cultural creatives - I call this the "pro" work. With the very real freedom we have today as Jews, and preserving our internal freedom from encroachment by hopelessness and apathy; with the enormous strength, inspiration and learning we can draw from our history and ancestors, and with the wisdom and learning we draw from other peoples and traditions, we can create a beautiful and powerful future.

Some of us work in this "anti" and "pro" directions not just relative to the future of the Jewish people, but of humankind, of the planet and all sentient beings. This book focuses on the first of these but doesn't exclude the others. Tsvi Bisk sees them as complementary. Depending on how comfortably and consciously Jewish identity fits for any individual Jew with the other levels of his/her identity, so will focusing on the future of the Jewish people complement their work for a positive future for all.

In my own experience of pointing out a path forward - a path which integrates but is not held back by the present obstacles - I have found that people very rarely dare to vision, and therefore also rarely dare to commit and act in a timely way. Staying within the herd seems to be a more powerful force for humans in general, than ensuring a good future for all. Leaders are generally far more interested in personal glory (requiring herd approval) than leading towards a good future for all. As a consequence, a bad future arrives - a deterministic future: determined by the forces that were at work in the present when people opted for inercia, apathy, divisiveness, powerlessness. Tsvi Bisk tells us that it doesn't have to be that way.

Just reading his understanding of Zionism is a balm to the heart and health food to the mind. (Zionism being a word so distorted and maligned in the world, that many Jews have become "closet Zionists"). Tsvi not only brings it with dignity out of the closet , but he is one of our best teachers on Zionism for the many Jews who know little about it and lack the sense of historical perspective. (His other book, Futurizing the Jews, goes into more depth relative to the historical origins of Zionism as a movement).

Bisk realizes that most Jews today live in a highly individualistic world. Collectivist cultural values and norms are on the wane in the experience of most Jews. (He likes the way the pendulum has swung. Others of us may prefer other combinations of individualistic and collectivistic cultural habitats). Zionism always held as one of its highest values Hagshama Atzmit, Self-Actualization, but the mix of individualistic and collectivistic values and feelings that brought about self-actualization for Jews 50 to 100 years ago is a different mix today. This is a fact, and Tsvi Bisk modernizes Zionism by acknowledging the real and potent integration possible today between what is meaningful for individual Jews and creating a good future for the Jewish people.

Having said all this, I don't agree with Tsvi on every single point. Neither may you. But this book has convinced me to become his ally in the creation of the future, and I believe and hope that many others that read it will be inspired to do so also. This is an excellent book for book clubs and study groups.It is available through the big book merchants, store and on-line purchasing...
A Reason to be Optimistic  Jul 25, 2007
With the sobering predictions from successive American Jewish population studies, it's easy to become pessimistic about whether it's going to be worth it in the long run to raise an increasingly smaller new generation with a strong Jewish identity. Is there a reason for paying thousands of dollars for a child's Jewish education?

Unequivocally, yes, says Tsvi Bisk in his new book, The Optimistic Jew (Maxanna Press, 2007). Director of the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking in Kfar Saba, Israel, Bisk not only knows that there's a reason to be optimistic, he outlines exactly how we can create a strong, vibrant Jewish future, attracting younger generations of disenfranchised and unaffiliated Jews in the process. And we can do it in our own lifetime.

There are several keys to achieve this, according to Bisk. One is embracing cultural pluralism, and he likens it to an environmental paradigm:

"Environmentalism recognizes that "monoculturalism" (the cultivation of a single crop over extensive areas) endangers the health of the entire ecological system. Ecological systems that have an increasing variety of species and ever-increasing interactions between these species are healthy, vigorous, and robust. Ecological systems that have a diminishing variety of species and diminishing interaction between these species are sick and susceptible to collapse." (p. 31)

And Bisk dismisses the idea that one has to choose between cultures: Jewish versus American versus Israeli versus any other cultural heritage, stating, "Individuals who cultivate within themselves a plurality of cultures also have a much better chance of succeeding. [...] To the extent that Israel and the Jewish people at large can make this cultural attitude a norm, we will truly be a light unto the nations." (pp. 139-140)

Another key is redefining Zionism for the 21st century. While Zionism was indeed a success, it is no longer applicable either to Israelis or the Diaspora. Writes Bisk, "Many young Diaspora and Israeli Jews have grown distant from Israel in recent years because Zionism is a 19th century ideology trying to come to terms with a 21st century reality." (p. 57). In clear, down to earth language, Bisk retraces the history of Zionism, how it grew, how it succeeded, and what needs to happen to reinvent it for today and the future.

The third key relates to the role of Israel, within both Israeli and Diaspora culture. Since the creation of the State of Israel, the primary relationship has been one of the Diaspora financially funding Israeli organizations, ultimately directed by Israeli politics. Some Israelis, Bisk writes, claim that not only have these contributions had little effect on Israeli citizens, they have actually become detrimental.

"The time has come for a new paradigm wherein these relatively small sums go directly [...] to more efficient and effective public administration, innovative educational initiatives and national projects (such as energy independence) that could mobilize the energies and skills of large numbers of uninvolved Jews." (pp. 68-69)

Bisk casts a sharp eye on the secular European Enlightenment, citing it as the basis for a global return to fundamentalism in any religion. While Jewish responses to the Enlightenment brought us this far, he writes, they cannot sustain Jewish identity into the future. This is not simply a case of changing beliefs or creating belief where there was none, but rather creating entirely new Jewish expressions.

Pulling together politics, psychology, economics, history, sociology, and ecology, Bisk describes where we've been, where we are, and where we can be. He offers specific ideas and suggestions for creating the optimistic future he envisions, and cites actions we can take as both individuals and a people. Of particular interest is his outline for the Jewish Energy Project, which can all at once invigorate today's Jews, reassert Israel's place in Jewish life, and tackle the growing dependence on foreign oil.

For anyone who is interested in what the future of the Jewish people can look like--if we will it--this is a highly recommended solid read with a potentially real outcome.

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