GOD IS IN THE CROWD: Twenty-First Century Judaism
Nonfiction, Spiegel & Grau , 2018
A bold proposal for discovering relevance in Judaism and ensuring its survival, from a pioneering social activist, business leader, and fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force
God Is in the Crowd is an original and provocative blueprint for Judaism in the twenty-first century, told through the lens of Tal Keinan’s unusual personal story. Keinan’s analysis of the threat to Jewish continuity is sobering: As the Jewish People has become concentrated in just two hubs—America and Israel—it has lost the subtle code of governance that endowed Judaism with dynamism and relevance in the Diaspora. This code, as Keinan explains it, is a variation of Francis Galton’s “wisdom of crowds,” in which groups of people pool their knowledge to demonstrate collective intelligence. Keinan proposes that the Jewish code can be resurrected—through a virtual Diaspora rather than a physical one. He argues forcefully that if the code is not rewritten, this ancient people and civilization will soon be extinct.
Keinan was born to a secular Jewish family in Florida. His interest in Judaism was ignited by a Christian minister at his New England prep school. That interest led him down the unlikely path to enlistment in the Israeli Air Force. Using his own dramatic story as a backdrop, and applying lessons from his professional life, Keinan takes the reader on an adventure, weaving between present and past and fusing theory with practice to examine the subtle mechanics that power Judaism. In the process, he presents a compelling definition of Judaism’s value, both to the Jews and to humanity. Finally, Keinan presents an innovative plan to harness the wisdom of the Jewish crowd to endow Judaism with new purpose.
World: Speigel & Grau; Israel: Kinneret
“A meaningful attempt to answer a significant question: How can Judaism survive? . . . [Tal Keinan] provides an impassioned yet well-reasoned and definitively well-written reflection on an imperiled people. A thoughtful and relevant assessment of the current state of Judaism.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“In God Is in the Crowd Tal Keinan blends social science, economics, religion, and national identity to help us see more clearly who we are as individuals, people, and a society.”—Dan Ariely, author of Dollars and Sense and The Upside of Irrationality
“Tal Keinan has written an extraordinarily powerful work on Jewish identity in the twenty-first century. Enthralling, searching, profound and compellingly written, it should be read by everyone concerned about the Jewish future.”—Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and author of Not in God’s Name
“Tal Keinan has done things in his life most of us only fantasize about. His experiences as an Israeli fighter pilot and living in Israel have given him a perspective on the Jewish condition that is both original and penetrating. He has written a compulsively readable book, rich in insights about American and Israeli Jews, presented by way of an account that is part memoir and part manifesto for the way forward. This is a must-read for anyone interested in how we have come to this impasse and how we will move beyond it.”—Daphne Merkin, author of This Close to Happy
“American, Israeli, entrepreneur, fighter pilot, and investor: Tal Keinan’s diagnosis of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora is provided through the lens of a rich and gripping life story. And his analysis of Jewish continuity is sobering. In God Is in the Crowd, Keinan explains why he believes the Jewish world will be unrecognizable within three generations. He offers a path forward for the Jewish future, which is provocative. Keinan’s contribution is indispensable to the debate about the future of the Jewish people.”—Dan Senor, co-author of Start-up Nation
“If you have been on Birthright, read this book. If you are a young person, struggling to determine whether or how to engage with your heritage, read this book. In an age when communal identities threaten to divide us, Tal Keinan offers a compelling model for celebrating our diversity. God Is in the Crowd is also a thrilling story. Start reading and you will find it difficult to stop.”—Michael Steinhardt
“Beautifully written, brilliantly argued, this part-memoir, part-polemic, and part-blueprint for the Jewish future is a unique contribution to the Jewish conversation. Few have lived both the American Jewish and Israeli experiences as intensively as Tal Keinan; few have earned the right, as he has, to help us navigate our destiny as a people. For anyone concerned with Jewish continuity, this is a must-read.”—Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, and author of Like Dreamers, winner of the Jewish Book Council’s Everett Book of the Year Award