Reconnect Jews Yearning for Connection

Fee For Service Judaism may hold us until we get our communal act together in a new way.

Judaism is changing, yet again.  Many feel it is changing for the wrong reasons or in a bad way, but the fact of the change is palpable.

Post Holocaust Judaism in North America was built on two major foundational lines of thinking.  The first was the cry “never again”, referring to the horrific destruction of Jewish life in Europe, and the second was the suburbanization of American Jewish communities.  The intersection of these two points created a Judaism that was based in fear, on the grand scale of the Holocaust, and on the smaller but not less significant scale of assimilation into American culture.  The role of rabbi 50 years ago was, in no small part, to constantly remind their congregations that affiliation with Jewish community and vigilance against mixing with those outside of the Jewish community would protect us from a second holocaust (small ‘h’ holocaust).

And here we are, over half a century later, and fear based Judaism is no longer holding sway in our communities.  Maybe it never did hold sway.

But there are bright spots in the future.  In a New York Times article about the clergy who serve the greatest number of wedding couples we find a Holocaust survivor who became a rabbi, later in her life, to serve the Jews for whom ‘fear based’ Judaism didn’t keep them attached to community.  These are the Jews who have found community in the larger world and have fallen in love with people outside the Jewish community. Continue reading

Jews Giving Hugs

One of the goals of InterfaithFamily.com is to advocate Jewish communal attitudes, policies and practices that are inclusive of interfaith families. In order for institutions to be accepting, their members have to be open minded. I read an article about a recent study that suggests the Jew community is coming around.

Hug by Jess Lee CuizonThis week, the results of the Jewish Peoplehood Index Project will be released at the Herzliya Conference, which is an annual meeting on Israel’s defense and foreign policy. This study compares the Israeli and American Jewish communities. The findings show similar preferences. When American and Israeli participants were asked to agree or disagree on the following statement, “We should relate to Jews married to non-Jews as part of the Jewish people in the same way as we relate to Jews married to Jews,” the average answer was 64 percent affirmative (69 percent Americans and 59 percent Israeli). I wish every Jew was tolerant and accepting of the choices of others. But 64 percent is an excellent start between the American and Israeli Jewish communities.

The Jewish Peoplehood Index was supported by the NADAV Fund, which also funds birthright israel, Beth Hatefutsoth–Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, and other projects that strengthen ties between Israel and Jews in the diaspora.

Last Monday, I had another experience that made me feel like the Jewish community has become more inclusive. I joined 240,000of my fellow Facebookers in the Official Hug a Jew Day. The Facebook event page was for Jews and non-Jews, individuals with Jewish heritage and those from all denominations. What a great way to start being a united Jewish community, with a hug and nod to our differences. You can show how you are a helping to create a welcoming Jewish community by joining InterfaithFamily.com’s Facebook page.

A Wedding on Planet Obama

Rachel Getting Married
From L-R: Anne Hathaway, Tunde Adebimpe, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mather Zickel in Rachel Getting Married.

As a ravenous consumer of film (insert shameless plug here), I make it a point to see as many of the Oscar contenders before the show as I can. Given that the Oscars are in less than three weeks–and nominations only came out a week-and-a-half ago–I’m in a bit of a film frenzy. Last night, I saw Rachel Getting Married.

Rachel Getting Married is about a recovering addict/bulimic/human grenade, Kim (Anne Hathaway), who is released from rehab for a few days to attend her sister Rachel’s (Blake DeWitt) wedding. Kim is a narcissistic mess of a human being who proves that the only person more tiresome than an addict is a recovering addict.

But this post isn’t about Kim. It’s about Rachel and her husband, Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe), and their cross-cultural mishmash of a wedding.

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Is Intermarriage Worse Than Bernie Madoff?

Jonathan Tobin is a fiercely intelligent, exceptionally eloquent Jewish journalist who was recently appointed editor of Commentary, an esteemed conservative (small-c) Jewish magazine. I would be a big fan, if it weren’t for his equally fierce, equally exceptional retrograde politics on Jewish issues. Intermarriage, unsurprisingly, is one of his favorite bugbears.

In his first op-ed as editor of Commentary, Tobin makes the remarkable argument that intermarriage and assimilation are bigger villains than Bernard Madoff. Moreover, he says, the whole notion of marketing Judaism to Jews “on the fringe”–the “outreach model”–has been a failure. Therefore, in this brave new world of shrunken philanthropic resources, Jewish givers should abandon outreach and focus only on inreach, like Jewish day camps, day schools and the like.

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It’s All In the Delivery

So there’s this famous joke about this guy who goes to visit his dad in a nursing home and everyone is getting up and shouting numbers. They get up and say, for example, “27!” and everyone cracks up. The dad explains that they’ve all heard the jokes so many times that they don’t have to tell them anymore. They just refer to them by the numbers. So the guy gets up and says “73!” but no one laughs. His dad says, “It’s all in the delivery.”

Tonight I found out about a new web project, Old Jews Telling Jokes.  It’s just what it sounds like: there will be 20 videos of Jewish people who are over 60, telling their best old jokes. Three of the videos are up so far.

You can tell that the guy who came up with the idea, Sam Hoffman, is in the movie business. I’m guessing he’s the same Sam Hoffman who worked on all these movies in the Internet Movie Database. I’m very happy about this project, because it captures something in Jewish culture that I don’t want to lose.