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Should Judaism disrupt your life?

A new Judaism is about to be born. Are you ready for it?

(RNS) — Here is a new Jewish party game.

Gather a bunch of friends around a table, and everyone must complete the following sentence:

“The Jewish people should continue to exist and thrive because … ”

You think it’s easy? It’s not. In fact, one of the things that makes this a Jewish party game is that the only people that ever ask themselves whether and why they should exist — just happen to be the Jews.

That is why I was thrilled to interview Rabbi Michael Strassfeld. He is a noted author and thought leader in American Judaism (more on his most famous book later). His new book is “Judaism Disrupted: A Spiritual Manifesto for the 21st Century.”

We talk about the Jewish counterculture, and what is good in Hasidism, and what Rabbi Strassfeld believes we have to get rid of in order for Judaism to survive.

Click here to listen.

Rabbi Strassfeld is asking the following question:

For what purpose are we preserving Judaism? Just to preserve it for its own sake is not compelling to me. If Jews no longer find Judaism meaningful or if it turns out Judaism can only flourish when we are being persecuted or by withdrawing from the world into separatist enclaves, then I am not sure Judaism can or will survive. The argument for observance for continuity’s sake seems to me wrongheaded and one that I think people will increasingly find unconvincing.

“Hanging out” with Rabbi Strassfeld brought me back to my years as a college student, when there was one Jewish book that everyone had on their shelves.

And no — I am not talking about the Hebrew Bible.

That book was “The Jewish Catalog,” edited by Michael Strassfeld, Sharon Strassfeld and the late Richard Siegel. “The Jewish Catalog” was sort of like a Jewish version of — and here, I am really dating myself! — the “Whole Earth Catalog.”

“The Jewish Catalog” was unique. It was a volume on how to create your own Jewish life, and a Jewish life for the community that you wanted to craft for yourself. Ultimately, “The Jewish Catalog” would consist of three volumes — with essays and do it yourself guides by all of the major and even the minor figures of the Jewish counterculture of the time — many of whom have died, but whose influence lives on, profoundly.

“The Jewish Catalog” was an American Jewish publishing phenomenon. It went on to be one of the bestselling books in American Jewish publishing history.

Fifty years later (!),the question is no longer: How do I create a Jewish life for myself?

It is a deeper question.

Why would I want to? Why would I need to?

That is the question that keeps me awake at night.

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