Judaism has been defined as many things: “religion,” “culture,” “ethnicity,” “race,” “nation,” and (for Mordecai Kaplan) “civilization.” Each definition, including Kaplan’s, poses ethical challenges by positing explicitly (or implicitly) a hierarchical ordering where Judaism is “religiously true,” “culturally advanced,” or otherwise “better than” other religions. This article therefore suggests reconceiving Judaism as a “conversation,” a more expansive term with no ethical hierarchy, and (as it happens) fully congruent with human nature, in that human beings are not so much “rational creatures” (Aristotle), “religious creatures” (Eliade), or “working creatures” (Marx), as they are “conversational creatures.” It further introduces the concept “cultural caricature” to project ultimate ethical outcomes of the various definitions (e.g., the caricature of “ethnicity” is “ethnic cleansing”). The caricature of “conversation” is a Museum of the Human Condition, where each religious tradition gets its own room and where religious adherents meet in the corridors to converse together—what we nowadays call interfaith dialogue.

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