This blog 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 blog/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 »
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 »
According to Jewish law, the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish regardless of who the father is, while the child of a Jewish father is not Jewish if the mother is not Jewish. In other words, a Jewish woman has the ability to confer Jewishness, while a Jewish man does not. In practical terms, Judaism does not recognize the child of an intermarried Jewish man as Jewish unless the child converts to Judaism. But the child of an intermarried Jewish woman is Jewish regardless of what faith the child is raised in.
In my view, Jewish law on this point is completely insane, both genetically and sociologically. What possible point could there be in denying genetic Jews membership among the Jewish people? No other group works this way. For example, if you have an American parent, the American government does not care what gender your American parent is. It is happy to recognize you as an American citizen.
Oh, you say, Jewish law is different because we always know who the mother is, but we do not know for sure who the father is. Read more »
For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days in Judaism, sometimes Jews say “Happy New Year”, like we all do on December 31. Sometimes we say “Good Yontiff,” which is Yiddish for “Good Yom Tov,” which basically means “Good Holiday.” But most often, we say “L’Shanah Tovah,” which means “For a Good Year” and is short for “May You Be Inscribed in the Book of Life for a Good Year.”
According to a key prayer on the High Holy Days, we are told that on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), it is written, and on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) it is sealed — who shall live and who shall die, who shall be healthy and who shall be sick, who shall have peace and who shall be harried, who shall die by fire and who by water, etc. etc.
Pretty scary stuff, which keeps Jews coming to synagogues on those days even if they don’t come any other time of the year. So when we say “L’Shanah Tovah”, we are wishing someone to be given a good decree by God for the coming year. It is much more significant than the “Happy New Year” we say on December 31, where we celebrate that we are still alive at midnight to see the coming of another calendar year. Read more »
According to a recent poll of church-goers, 82% of those who don’t go to or belong to a church would go to a church service this weekend if a friend or someone they know invited them. That is a huge number – 82%!
There is no reason to believe that the same number would be different for Jewish unaffiliated people.
So what is the problem? We all know what it is – Jewish prayer services are boring and unless the synagogue you’re inviting them to is friendly or makes a connection in some way, the people you invite are not likely to return, with the possible exception of the High Holidays. Read more »