I’m writing this post while sitting in on a on “Jewish Expressions in New Media” (does that count as my meta moment of the day, Esther?) so please forgive anything that might sound a little disjointed. I just wanted to put some thoughts down while they were fresh.
My feelings after the discussion with Gil Troy are a little different that ck’s. Here’s what I took away from it…
Gil brought in quotes from the book Stars of David, where famous Jews talk about being Jewish. With quotes from Steven Spielberg, Jason Alexander and Sarah Jessica Parker among others, every one’s reasons for being Jewish ranged from ambiguous to negative. Indeed, their views were representative of large segments of Jewish society. Sarah Lefton commented however, that nearly all the quotes were from people over 50, and it is precisely those views which that the people here at this conference are rebelling against.
However, the 120 super-Jews here are not representative of the norm as far as I can see. Gil mentioned that Elie Wiesel has called this generation the “spoiled brats of Jewish history.” We have been given everything, and we have come back with illiteracy. Sari Lisch concurred that despite her childhood of Jewish education and her family’s community involvement, she just recently discovered what Shavuot is. The keyword that caused many an audience member to nod their heads was the feeling of being “cheated”. Cheated out of the knowledge of our own history and culture, and yes, our religion.
Dan Sieradski (aka Mobius) felt the problem was the high cost of formal Jewish education. While clearly that’s a problem I felt that it’s not the real issue. If I, for example, had grown up in a vibrant and committed Jewish household or community I would not have heard the world “havdala” for the first time at the age of twenty. We were cheated not just by our institutions, but by our parents whole generation.
This was echoed by a Hebrew school teacher in the first row who saw that when her students went home they didn’t have the tools and the consistency necessary to internalize and sense the relevance of the lessons learned. Judaism, like charity, starts at home.
But what does that home/community based learning and lifestyle look like? There was some discussion about how religion can’t be the central focus of every one’s Jewish identity. Understandably, everyone has a different path and the religious mold won’t do it for everyone. (That being said, another commentor likened certain knee jerk rejections of orthodoxy to someone insisting he hates oranges while never actually having eaten one) But the question then, is what exactly does that look like?
You don’t want to be religious, but you want a vibrant committed Jewish life? Fan-fricken-tastic. Tell me what that’s gonna look like. Does it go beyond bagels and Seinfeld?
Can you not be religious but celebrate Shabbat because it is in many ways a cornerstone of Jewish community? What do your children study? Can you divorce our history from our religion? Is Torah a the central rallying point of our religion or our culture, or both? Is community a virtue and do you therefore keep kosher, not for God, but so that any Jew can eat in your house? What do you emphasize, what do you leave out?
Give me Tachliss or give me death.
More to come.