If there is one thing you would like to see change in your faith or ethical tradition over the next ten years, what would it be? What role would you want to play?
The one thing I would most like to see change in Judaism over the next ten years is for Judaism to stop becoming a faith! Admittedly, this might sound strange coming from a rabbi. But the truth is that Judaism, for thousands of years, was far more than a faith in which one espoused a set of beliefs or ascribed to a certain cultural identity. Judaism was a religion, inextricably intertwined with an ethnicity, a culture, and a geographical (if not actual) home in Israel. Judaism was not something one proclaimed to be, or something one “practiced” at certain fixed times and places; it was a pervasive, all-encompassing identity.
Judaism in North America today is very different. Many Jewish communal organizations have, for years, bemoaned the rapid rates of assimilation that draw Jews from a more insular Jewish context into secular American life. The impact of assimilation—for Judaism and for most religions in America—has resulted in dramatic drops in affiliation rates and other indicators of religious involvement.
But there is another, related development in American Judaism that gets less publicity but also represents a paradigm shift in Jewish expression: for those Jews who do continue to affiliate, Judaism has become much more of a faith than a religion. A religion, according to one definition, is an “institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” We are living in a paradox in which Judaism is both becoming more and more accepted in secular society than ever before (just look at your Town Green on Christmas/Hanukkah if you need visual proof) yet the Jewish product that emerges looks less and less like the Judaism of the past 3000 years. We are Jews today because we say we want to be Jews, not because we fill our days with actions that identify us as Jews.
My goal, over the next ten years, is to work to reclaim the notion of a Judaism that permeates everyday life. I want to help rebuild a Judaism that transcends both the physical boundaries of the synagogue and the temporal boundaries of holidays. Judaism is a religion to be lived in the home, in the workplace, and, indeed, in all walks of life.
Please let me know what you think!!