Survivalism vs. Values, Take II

Following up on last week’s post on Yossi Abramowitz’s comments on how the Jewish community spends too much time on issues of exclusivity and survival, Irwin Kula did an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on a similar theme:

Like followers of most religions, Jews have largely neglected much of their own wisdom teachings, Kula says. For much of their history — especially the last couple of generations — Jews have majored on survival and identity issues: intermarriage, Israel, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, the religious right.

“That’s a death spiral,” he says. “It’s about preservation and exclusivity. Most Americans are asking different questions: How can I love, how can I be happier, what should I do with my life, how to deal with the death of a loved one, how to raise my kids with values.

“The wisdom traditions have a lot to offer for those questions. They won’t help you become Christian or Jewish or Buddhist. But they’ll help you become more human — more self-aware and compassionate.”

For interfaith families asking the question, “Why Jewish?” the typical answer–because the Jewish population is declining–is not personally compelling. But if you can answer Why Jewish? by explaining how Judaism answers questions like “How can I love? How can I be happier?” then you have a Judaism that speaks to people on an intimate, emotional level.

Publisher and President Ed Case was quoted in a recent story published by the Parent & Kids section of townonline.com (the website of Community Newspaper Company of Massachusetts) titled “Home for the holidays: A narrative on how some Massachusetts families are celebrating this year.” Oddly, three of the four families discussed are Jewish, and two have an interfaith connection. One, Eric Lippman and Rena Mello, are raising their children Jewish even though Rena is a Catholic; the other, the Edelstein-Rosenbergs, are Jewish but have adopted two girls from China.

A more interesting article on the holidays comes from the Boston Globe magazine, titled “How to Survive the Holidays Without Angering Your Family, Annoying Your Friends, and Alienating Your Neighbors.” Written by their advice columnist, Robin Abrahams, the article includes very sensible advice on, well, exactly what the title says. It can be of particular use to interfaith families who are figuring out how to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. My favorite piece of advice? “Admit that the holidays aren’t about good taste.”

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