This website has one primary purpose – to help stop and hopefully reverse the attrition of Jews from the American Jewish community. Many others are trying to do this too; some are trying to make Jewish prayer services more interesting and others are focused on improving Jewish education.
Those are laudable efforts that I agree with. However, those efforts only reach those who are actively in the Jewish community at the present time. So many of our numbers are not in the Jewish community, never go to prayer services and never attend Jewish educational classes. In other words, current efforts are like preaching to the choir and not connecting at all to everyone else.
So how do we reach them?
My hope is to reach them through the books I am and will be writing. Perhaps this website will also help. I hope so. I start from one basic assumption: If you have a product and it is not selling, you either have to change the buyers or you have to change the product. Read more »
For this Israeli election, indeed for any Israeli election till its accomplished, the most important thing is to take away the power of the Orthodox to determine personal status issues. To determine who is a Jew, how to become a convert, how to get married, and how to get divorced should be a state issue not a Jewish law issue (except for themselves). They have no right to determine these things for those who are not Orthodox, who only comprise a bare 15% of the population. Though they say differently, their interpretation of Jewish law is valid only for themselves. It has no claim on the rest of us, except to the extent we choose it for ourselves. Other issues will take care of themselves no matter who is elected.
Raising a child Jewish is not a problem for Orthodox parents because everything they do and model has Jewish content to it.
But what if you are a secular Jew, and more especially, what if you are a secular Jew married to a non-Jew? How do you establish a feeling of Jewishness in your children?
I. Start with God
What distinguished Judaism in the beginning, what has always distinguished Judaism from other religions, is a belief in a one God, a moral God, Who has made man in His own image, and wants a world full of righteousness and kindness and compassion.
We teach that God is invisible, that He is everywhere, and that He sees all and knows all and is available to us through prayer and conversation. We can talk to God, and sometimes He talks to us. How He talks to us varies from person to person. If you look for Him and listen for Him, you will discover how He talks to you. Read more »
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, tragedy to befall the Jewish people in a long history of terrible tragedies, was the holocaust during World War II. According to historians, we lost six million of our number, somewhere near half of the entire Jewish population.
This loss has not been replaced, not that you could ever replace the flower of European Jewry who were lost to us, along with their culture, learning, and spirituality. Instead, the number of Jews worldwide has continued to decline. It’s true the number of Orthodox, who comprise maybe 10 to 15% of worldwide Jewry has increased, but only because of their high birth rate. Surveys tell us that there are more people exiting the Orthodox life than entering into it. For the rest of us, between the high rate of intermarriage – almost 80% in the U.S. according to the recent Pew survey – and the low birthrate – about 1.7% worldwide – we are rapidly shrinking in size. Read more »
Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz Backs Off Controversial Plan for Intermarriages
Prominent Cleric Would’ve Been Conservative Trailblazer
(JTA) — Within days of floating a proposal that woud have allowed Conservative rabbis to perform interfaith marriages, Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., backed away from the controversial plan.
In a recent email, Gardenswartz asked congregants to consider a proposal for a new shul policy that would enable him to officiate at interfaith weddings in cases where the couple commits to a “Covenant to Raise Jewish Children.”
The shift would have made him the first prominent Conservative clergyman to break with the movement’s ironclad rule against rabbis performing intermarriages.
“Conservative clergy cannot officiate at or attend an interfaith wedding,” Gardenswartz wrote. “But I am worrying whether that response has grown stale, and whether a new response would better serve the needs of our families and of our congregation.” Read more »
I spoke earlier today with Rabbi Joshua Davidson of Congregation Emanu-El on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, which is also Manhattan’s largest Reform synagogue, about the relationship of dues and synagogue membership.
Rabbi Davidson wanted to emphasize that no synagogue he knows of turns people away due to inability to pay, and that furthermore, most synagogues take people at their word and do not require any showing of proof. Read more »
While some maintain that the human being is only physical form, the Torah, in one of its most important sentences, insists that every person is also created in the image of God — tzelem Elokim (Genesis 1:26,27). On the surface we see each others’ outward appearance, but if we look deeply, we ought to be able to perceive a little bit of God in our fellow human being. In fact, it is the tzelem Elokim which makes the human being unique. In the words of Pirke Avot, “beloved is the human being who is created in the image of God.” (Avot 3:18) Several fundamental ideas emerge from the tzelem Elokim principle. Bearing in mind that each and every human being is created with tzelem Elokim, it follows that all people — regardless of race, religion, nationality, age, mental faculties, handicap, etc. — are of equal value.
Human beings can relate to God “vertically” and “horizontally.” In the sense that we have the capacity to reach upwards to the all powerful God through prayer and ritual, we relate vertically. Additionally, when we relate to our fellow person, we connect to that part of God in them. If one hurts another human being, God is hurt. Similarly, if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous. Hence, a horizontal relationship exists as well. Read more »