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Questions about the Future of Judaism

On the website Femeniste, blogger Daisy Bond wants to know what’s in store for the future of Judaism. As she gets older, she explains, she is more aware of her “personal responsibility to ensure that Judaism survives, of the obligation and the privilege to decide for myself what that means and what it will look like.”

So she wanted to open the question up to her readers and find out what they thought. She started with the question “What do you want Judaism to be,” and then expounded with a series of more specific inquiries, such as:

Why are Judaism and Jewish culture important? Why is it important to preserve them? What are most critical issues for the Jewish community to address right now? Israel, intermarriage, declining synagogue attendance, something else entirely?

There are more – lots more. These are the right questions to ask, as we do day after day on our blog. She has put them all in one place, and we would like to bring the discussion to our readers. But we don’t want to focus on Jewish “survival.” Instead, we want to look at the motivation for being a part of the Jewish community. What is in Judaism that will continue to claim the attention of Jews or those interested in entering the orbit of the community? We ask because we want to know what people can do to promote the value and meaning of Judaism and create a community where everyone in our midst is welcome to explore and connect with their heritage.

The full list of Daisy’s questions can be found after the jump. We encourage you to visit the original post to see how others have responded.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what our answer would be. At JOI, we believe the future of the North American Jewish community will be determined by the warmth, wisdom and caring with which we welcome and engage intermarried families and unaffiliated Jews into our midst.

What do you think? We look forward to your comments.

  • What do you like about Judaism and Jewish culture? What do you dislike?
  • Why are Judaism and Jewish culture important? Why is it important to preserve them?
  • What is your relationship with Judaism as a religion? Do you feel connected to Judaism? To a temple community, to a minyan, to a study group? If not, would you like to be?
  • Are you affiliated with any of the movements? Which one, and why? If not, why not? What do you like and/or dislike about it?
  • How observant are you? How important is observance to you? How observant should others be? Are some kinds of observance more important than others?
  • What practices or ideas are most central to your Jewish identity? (i.e. eating bagels, loving books, celebrating the High Holidays, not celebrating Christian holidays, keeping kosher, fighting for justice, etc.)
  • Ideally, what will Judaism and Jewish culture look like in 10 years? In 25 years? In 100 years?
  • What are most critical issues for the Jewish community to address right now? Israel, intermarriage, declining synagogue attendance, something else entirely?
  • What are the key qualities for Judaism/Jewish culture to embody or functions for it to perform?


3 Comments

  1. Hey, thank you for taking up the topic here! I look forward to exploring this site, and to seeing how your readers answer these questions.

    Comment by Daisy Bond — July 16, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  2. These are all excellent questions. I hope more people will answer them here as well as on your site.

    1) What do you like about Judaism and Jewish culture? What do you dislike?

    Religion: I like the focus on tikkun olam and tzedekah - these are not optional. I like that God cared enough about us to explain what we’re doing here (in theory, at least.) Ritual contains or facilitates awareness of God - we can sanctify the ordinary through ritual. The sabbath is a precious time to draw inward and focus on the spiritual dimension of life. I like the vision of the world as one with God, interconnected, in which every part influences every other part; the holidays as a reenactment of significant events; that it is an experiential, transformational, action-oriented faith involving the whole person, is life-affirming and respects human nature - and is not only about abstract beliefs. And I like that there are specific ideas about how we should treat each other.
    Cultural: Values, ideals, language, art, music, food.

    2) Why are Judaism and Jewish culture important? Why is it important to preserve them?

    It should be preserved for its practical value - because it works. Living Jewishly can work even for those who don’t believe in God - whether you see it as a spiritual discipline or as a comfortable routine, ritual provides structure, security, and continuity.

    3) What is your relationship with Judaism as a religion? Do you feel connected to Judaism? To a temple community, to a minyan, to a study group? If not, would you like to be?

    I am connected by birth, whether I choose to be or not. That’s a fact of life that can’t be erased. I don’t feel connected to any community, but I do feel deeply connected to the ideas - I feel a deep sense of recognition and familiarity with core concepts. And yes, I would like to be connected.

    4) Are you affiliated with any of the movements? Which one, and why? If not, why not? What do you like and/or dislike about it?

    Affiliated with Reform. Like: Acceptance of interfaith families and the GLBTQ community, placing a high value on social and environmental responsibility and community service. Being free to question and explore intellectually. Dislike: placing a dry, intellectual, rote approach above spirituality. I strongly object to the idea of Judaism as only a religion, which I feel is simply inaccurate (even if a desirable long-term outcome.)

    5) How observant are you? How important is observance to you? How observant should others be? Are some kinds of observance more important than others?

    My observance consists of shabbat candle-lighting, and a retreat for that day. I fast on Yom Kippur. Recite the sh’ma morning & evening. How observant others are is not my concern. I think all of the holidays are likely very influential if observed - the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. But I am still learning how.

    What practices or ideas are most central to your Jewish identity? (i.e. eating bagels, loving books, celebrating the High Holidays, not celebrating Christian holidays, keeping kosher, fighting for justice, etc.)

    I grew up with social justice as a central family value. Fairness, making sure everyone gets what they need, taking care of the poor and elderly, a sense of responsibility to the broader community, family loyalty, the obligation to behave well in public because it reflects on all other Jews. The idea that I am my brother’s keeper. And yes, loving books, loving to think and question.

    Ideally, what will Judaism and Jewish culture look like in 10 years? In 25 years? In 100 years?

    My ideal: Anyone who wants to become part of Jewish life will be able to do so, and will be welcomed and supported in that process. I think ritual is good for people, so I encourage people to try it and see for themselves.

    What are most critical issues for the Jewish community to address right now? Israel, intermarriage, declining synagogue attendance, something else entirely?

    Accepting everyone who wants to be involved. Really. No more insider/outsider stuff. Lose the tribalism and promote the value system - because that’s what would make a better world.

    What are the key qualities for Judaism/Jewish culture to embody or functions for it to perform?

    Social responsibility, social justice, environmental sanity, education, kindness, honesty, the ability to value and embrace life (which is holiness.) Healing the world is the job description.

    Thanks for a superb set of questions.

    Comment by Sara — July 16, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  3. I loved reading your response, Sara!

    Comment by Daisy Bond — July 17, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

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