Friday, April 6, 2012

The Future of Judaism

In the spring of 1998, when I interviewed for admission to the rabbinical program of the Hebrew Union College, one of the questions that the panel asked me had to do with what would be the greatest threat to Jewish continuity and the Jewish future.

Fourteen years later, I think my answer would be the same: the divisiveness of different Jewish movements threatens to destroy us from within.

At the time of my interview, I was not entirely sure where on the spectrum of Judaism my personal beliefs and practices fell.  Though I had been raised in a Reform household, I had exposed myself to the practices of different denominations of Judaism.  I wasn't sure that some of the innovations of Reform Judaism weren't being made merely for the sake of innovation.  This, I feared, would only grow the chasm between the various movements.

Nowadays, I would point my finger elsewhere as well: Orthodox Jews who conflate minhag (custom) with halachah (law) to assert that certain actions are forbidden, or that certain individuals will never be fully accepted into our community.  Jews who feel that the only way to show compassion for Palestinians is to excoriate and denigrate Israel.  Jews who find that the services and activities of their synagogue don't appeal to or inspire them, and rather than working within to foment change, simply stop attending or affiliating.  I could keep on going...

But while I have my trepidation about the future of Judaism, I also have great hope.  We are seeing wonderful innovative approaches to worship and programming, both within the mainstream movements, and from so-called "post-denominational" corners.  We are seeing the hegemony of Orthodoxy in Israel, which formerly came at the expense of more liberal forms of expression, beginning to erode.  We are seeing more avenues for inclusion of women, gays and lesbians, and non-traditional families.

At our sedarim, we will invite Elijah into our midst, in the hopes that he will herald a messianic age.  But we need not wait for his arrival.  We have the power to transform the world now, to begin building a more promising future.


Note: This is the conclusion of the #BlogExodus project.  I do plan to continue my blogging, but I'll be taking a brief hiatus for Passover.  I wish everyone a "Zissen Pesach," a Happy Passover.

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