Even in the distant past, there was probably no single body to which one could point as the sole bearer of Jewish tradition.
But let us return to the analogy of the body.
Generally, we can claim that the center of consciousness is in the brain.
But at many periods of time during the day or the night, the point of consciousness moves to different centers.
Sometimes it's at the speech center; sometimes it is concentrated in the eyes or some other organ of perception.
The movement of consciousness seems to be one of the signs of life and one could almost imagine light bulbs going on and off all over the body to indicate where awareness is being focused.
Every part of the organic wholeness, which is both the mystical and the material body, has a special function that is his and only his.
His role is vital to this body and no one else can fill it.
And the way a person fills his role is significant, just as a person cannot be sick only in his little finger, and just as any sickness of a part imperils the well-being of the whole body, so too is there a vital interrelationship between the individual and the community.
The way the individual Jew assumes his rightful place in the organism determines the shape of his life and the life of the whole.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From an interview with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, conducted by Yehuda Hanegbi, in On Being Free by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz