June 5, 2013

Rabbi’s message for American Jews: Change or die

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Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, ordained in the liberal Reconstructionist tradition, sees a divide between generations of American Jews that could spell disaster for the community. Photo courtesy Rabbi Sidney Schwarz

Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, ordained in the liberal Reconstructionist tradition, sees a divide between generations of American Jews that could spell disaster for the community. Photo courtesy Rabbi Sidney Schwarz

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(RNS) Rabbi Sidney Schwarz says old-style American Jewish institutions better figure out how upstart Jewish organization are attracting young Jews, and leaders of new Jewish movements should take some advice from their elders.

  • Rob

    The Rabbi is well intentioned but misguided (by his own theological bias?). The problem is not “organization” or “innovation”. Orthodoxy is the only segment of American Judaism that is growing in numbers while remaining distinct from ever more arbitrarily moral (amoral?) secular life. Judaism is not about organizations that do social justice, it is about lifestyle that is meaningfully distinct from non-Jewish living (i.e. Kashrut, Shabbat, other ritual practice that stems from faith and belief) so that people who are distinctly Jewish in obvious ways are an obvious Light Unto the Nations for the ethics and social justice they pursue. Relaxing and abandoning Jewish ritual, dress, dietary laws, etc. only ameliorate that which makes Judaism distinct. You don’t have to do social justice to be Jewish, so young people who care about that don’t see a value to living a Jewish life and perpetuating it. Make Jewish life of fulfillment of mitzvot fun and a priority in family life (e.g. Shabbat dinners, holiday celebrations, etc.) and they will want to live a Jewish life including the ethics and social justice that Judaism asks of Jews through Torah. Orthodoxy and being shomer mitzvot aren’t a perfect answer to everything, but the non-Orthodox should wake up and see what makes Orthodox LIFE successful, not orthodox organizations.

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  • charles hoffman

    amber waves of empty synagogue
    Chabad should be encouraged; they’ll put in the time while the good Rabbis of the Reconstructionist movement write long-winded papers that get fewer hits on the internet than your cousin’s vacation pictures