This booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more!
Romemu (roh·meh·moo) seeks to integrate body, mind, and soul in Jewish practice. This is a Judaism that will ignite your Spirit. We are a progressive, fully egalitarian community committed to tikkun olam, or social action, and to service that flows from an identification with the sacredness of all life.
Join the San Diego Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Family Service to explore the interfaith family experience, including a screening of the film Out of Faith followed by a facilitated discussion. Out of Faith is a feature-length documentary that follows three generations as they struggle with complex and emotionally-charged conflicts over intermarriage, familial duty, ethnic identity, and cultural continuity and survival.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
Jews donâ€™t live in ghettos anymore, and I think most of us would agree that this is a good thing. In our daily lives we interact with all sorts of people who are different from ourselvesâ€”people with different political views, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, people of different races and people of different religions. This exposure to diversity makes our lives varied and interesting. I for one donâ€™t know of many people who would want to give this up.
We donâ€™t live in a world of arranged marriages, and the simple fact is that people fall in love for all kinds of reasons, many of them inexplicable. Sometimes you just know when you have met â€śthe oneâ€ťâ€”even if that person is someone totally different from you, and even if that person is totally different from what you had imagined for yourself.
Many people, before finding their mate, have a â€śchecklistâ€ť of what theyâ€™re looking for in a partner. One of my friends always said sheâ€™d marry someone blonde, very physically fit andâ€”most importantâ€”Jewish. So when she met a man at work who had dark hair, was chubby and didnâ€™t like to work outâ€”and was Methodistâ€”she wasnâ€™t concerned when they started to spend a lot of time together as friends. Sure he was smart, interesting and funnyâ€”but he wasnâ€™t her â€śtype.â€ť But eventually their connection become deeper and they fell in love. It stopped mattering to her that he wasnâ€™t blonde and fit. What mattered was that she loved him. And though she didnâ€™t value her Jewish identity any less after falling in love with him than before falling in love with him, she was determined to find a way to make their relationship work since he was â€śthe oneâ€ť she loved. Eventually, they got married.
For my friend, â€śthe oneâ€ť is a Methodist. For Rabbi Michal Woll (who co-wrote the recently published book Mixed-Up Love with her husband Jon Sweeney) â€śthe oneâ€ť is a Catholic author. For me, â€śthe oneâ€ť happens to be another rabbi. But just because my friend and Michal married Christian men that doesnâ€™t mean that either of them values Judaism less than I do.
Iâ€™ve met numerous people who grew up with strong Jewish identities and who care deeply about the future of the Jewish peopleâ€”many of whom spent much of their lives certain that they would never even date, let alone marry, someone who was not Jewish but who simply fell in love with someone they knew, like a college classmate, a work colleague or a best friend. Some of them shared with me that they went through deep soul searching and many tears after having fallen in love with someone of a different faith, but ultimately they came to the conclusion that they could spend their life with the person they loved as well as live a committed Jewish life and raise a Jewish family.
These people didnâ€™t see themselves as having to make a choice between EITHER the person they loved OR the religion and community that they loved. Rather, they made the decision to BOTH spend their life with the person they loved AND to live a Jewish life and raise a Jewish family. Most people Iâ€™ve talked to who have made this BOTH/AND decision have acknowledged that there are challenges to being in an interfaith relationship (just like there are challenges in any relationship, especially one in which there are fundamental differences between the partners), but they would rather deal with those challenges together with their mate than having to choose EITHER/OR between their mate and Judaism, and they find meaning and often joy in facing those challenges TOGETHER.
The fact is that in todayâ€™s world, in most of the liberal Jewish community, having a partner who is not Jewish and living a committed Jewish life arenâ€™t seen as necessarily mutually exclusive. As Michal and Jon share in Mixed-Up Love, faith and religion are VERY important to BOTH of them; thatâ€™s a large part of what attracted them to each other. It just happens that in their case they each have a DIFFERENT religion. Together they are raising a Jewish daughter and making it work for themselves and their family.
So donâ€™t just assume that because a Jewish person is in a relationship with or married to someone who is of a different faith that their Judaism, the Jewish community and Jewish continuity arenâ€™t important to them. Rather than EITHER/OR, perhaps they have chosen to commit to BOTH/AND.
One of my favorite camp counselors from my youth, now a respected university instructor and demographer, Marc Dollinger, Ph.D. is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility at San Francisco State University. He recently posted the following query on Facebook:
â€śâ€¦how many of the 613 mitzvot were classical Reform Jews obligated to perform? My undergrads at SF State want to know.â€ť
I was intrigued, so I started reading the 45+ comments. Professor Dollinger offered additional insight about the class that he was teaching when the question was posed: â€śToday’s lecture on post-Enlightenment denominationalism, at 75 minutes, was supposed to cover classical and modern Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox (overviews on questions of God, Torah, authority, practice) but we didn’t get past classical Reform. Thrilled with the student interest and passion. More queries coming…â€ť
Rabbi Evan Goodman, formerly from the Bay Area and now the UC Santa Barbara Hillel Executive Director responds: â€śâ€¦I know you stated you need a number, not a theory. However, I don’t believe this question can be answered that way and be authentic to Reform [Judaism]. As you know, Reform Judaism is non-Halachic. Its starting point is the premise that the mitzvot and other traditions are not legally binding on us. It was and is up to each one of us to learn and interpret these traditions in our own generationâ€¦â€ť
As the class continued its conversation with Professor Dollinger, he â€śtaught how the early Reform theologians employed rationalist thought to determine which mitzvot remained relevant in modernity and which were considered dated in light of the rapidly changing world. In this sense, wearing kipot and talit would lose value while commandments against murder and stealing would, logically, remain. Students had a deeper concern that once Judaism becomes ethics, what makes it Jewish anymore?â€ť
Rabbi David Cohen, also formerly from the Bay Area and now at Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee, WI, chaperoned my teen trip to Israel (many years ago). He offered that â€śthe classical reformers distinguished between rational, ethical mitzvot and non-rational ritual mitzvot. The rabbis of old would have called these mishpatim and khukim. Ethical mitzvot were obligatory; ritual mitzvot were optional. Each Jew was to make a personal, informed choice, choosing to perform a ritual mitzvah if s/he found it spiritually uplifting.â€ť
He points out that a distinction is made between ritual (i.e. religious) and ethical commandments. Fast forward to today. My post read as follows, â€śI’m curious how your students would respond to the recent Pew Study finding that most of their contemporaries would describe themselves as non-religious Jews. Is this the same or different from classical Reform Judaism shifting away from halacha? It seems that among the non-Orthodox Millennials today, ethical/cultural Judaism is their focus of interest, over religious Judaism.â€ť The distinction between religious and ethical continues.
So, what happens when Judaism becomes ethics? What do you think?
I was asked the other day what challenges I anticipate as InterfaithFamily moves forward with our objectives. As the great baseball player Mike Lowell quoted his father saying, â€śThere are many injustices out there. It is what one does with that injustice that will shape a person into the character that he will become.â€ť
Our mission at IntefaithFamily is to â€śsupport interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and making Jewish choices, and to encourage Jewish communities to welcome them.â€ť Sounds pretty good to me. So what could be the challenge?
Sticking with baseball shaping character, let us liken the game of baseball to religion. It is a joyous and meaningful game indeed, filled with thrills and sorrows, wins and losses, struggles to overcome, questionable calls (look out for obstructions) and blessings and prayers (and come to think of it, there is even a God Bless America thrown in sometimes toward the end). But letâ€™s play out this metaphor. Where is the challenge that I anticipate?
If religion is the game of baseball and every team is a religion, who gets to play? Who wants to play? Who â€śdeservesâ€ť to play? Who â€śneedsâ€ť to play? Who watches the game and who is participating? Were you born to play or did you fall in love with the game?
I had the privilege of seeing the movie 42, The Jackie Robinson Story, a few months ago. If you havenâ€™t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It is hard to imagine that professional sports were segregated for so long and it wasnâ€™t until 1947 that Jackie Robinson broke the â€ścolored barrier.â€ť The movie does not hold back in depicting how many players, EVEN ON HIS SAME TEAM were unaccepting and prejudiced at first. Some resented Jackie for making a sport into â€śa political situation.â€ť
One thing that becomes clear is that Jackie just wanted to play baseball. The world had things so very upside down back then. It was revolutionary at the time for an African American to play with whites on the same field. (And just as heartbreaking to see a world filled with segregated seating in the standsâ€”but it was one battle at a time back then). Jackie had courage and valor that we all admire, and the kind of determination one needs to overcome the prejudice of the old world. There was an unaccepting nature of how things were that constantly challenged him.
I am lucky, for interfaith work is not new at all. There are many great leaders before us that started this work and I am lucky to be part of the growing conversation. Boston itself is often at the forefront of innovation and acceptance of interfaith relationships and has offered great interfaith programming for years.
The majority of people do not like to â€śmake waves.â€ť It takes courage to stand up for something that you believe in, even if it is unpopular at the time. Bringing it back to interfaith families, here is the kicker: There are more intermarried Jews than non-intermarried Jews. The obstacle is people who hold back and are so set in the â€śold ways,â€ť that they fail to notice our own Jackie Robinson has joined our team.
It is intermarried couples who want to play ball. Jewish communities are enriched by diversity and a multitude of expressions and practices. Interfaith relationships are an opportunity not a threat to Jewish continuity. Collaboration with others is essential to the work that we do and open communication and education lead to understanding.
I hope that when times get tough and I meet those unwilling to see how Judaism is evolving and growing to be more inclusive and welcoming, that I will always remember good old number 42: Jackie Robinson, a hero to us all. The game has only gotten better and better and it is my prayer that everyone is ready to â€śplay ball.â€ť
I often feel that life is a series of days unless we pause occasionally to celebrate. There are definitely highs and lows of each day and some events stay with us for days or weeks, but generally days and weeks come and go. This is why entering a period of pause each week, called Shabbat is so crucial. This is why holidays and life cycle events are so important. They mark our time with meaning.
This past weekend, two events occurred in our house which felt they changed our lives. Although the two events were not monumental to most, they felt dramatic to me.
The first event was that my six-year-old had her first spelling test. First grade is very different from â€śhalf-dayâ€ť kindergarten. In first grade, she gets on the bus at 8:30 and comes off the bus at 3:30 and has had all kinds of experiences that she navigates herself. Most of her day is at schoolâ€”not at home now. However, this first spelling test brought me nearly to tears of joy. She had reached a new place in her young life. Now, she was being tested and judged based on what she studied and how she performed. Now, we as parents, had a new responsibility on our shoulders: to help her study.
The second event that occurred was that our daughter went on her first sleep-over at a friendâ€™s house around the corner from where we live.Â We were proud and filled with nachas (a Yiddish word meaning pride from a loved oneâ€™s accomplishment). She had to make her needs known. She had to perform her own self-care.
I got into bed the night she was not home and felt Godâ€™s presence as I have not felt in a long time. Perhaps because I have been moved by the stories my colleaguesâ€”fellow rabbi-rabbi parents have shared about their own sonâ€™s brave fight of childhood cancer and about the thousands like himâ€”I cherish even more keenly and with a different perspective our childrenâ€™s lives.
When I say I felt Godâ€™s presence, what I felt was the support of thousands of other parents over generations who have had the joy of seeing their children accomplish new feats. I felt excitement at what was to come. I felt in awe of how life moves along and how obstacles are overcome.
I love the shehecheyanu prayer (the Jewish Kodak moment blessing). It is said at new and joyous occasions and it thanks God for sustaining us and enabling us to reach this new place. The word â€śchaiâ€ť (life) is in the middle of this hard-to-pronounce word, shehecheyanu. Judaism is obsessed with life. With living the best life we can. Harold Kushner wrote a whole book called, To Life. Think Fiddler on the Roof, â€śTo life, to life, lâ€™chayim.â€ť
Of course I said shehecheyanu. I say it at every wedding. I said it when a first tooth was lost. (I think I was too sleep deprived to say it when that tooth grew in at three or four months old!) I said it when it snowed for the first time this season a few days ago in Chicago. But, I wanted a different, more specific prayer for this occasion of watching my daughter grow up.
Those who were raised with Judaism can be skittish about spontaneous, personal prayer. We like scripted prayers that start, â€śBaruch Atah Adonaiâ€¦â€ť I wrote my rabbinic thesis on spontaneous Jewish prayer because I am terrified of it. But, I prayed to God from my heart in my bed that night.
Over Thanksgiving dinner or the first nights of Hanukkah, maybe give yourself the freedom to add your own words, your own sentiments to our scripted prayers. Or fill the words from the sheets you read or which flow from your mouth out of memory with kavannah, special intention.
Judaism is all about turning the mundane into the sacred. A spelling test? A sleep-over? Yesâ€”these were sacred moments to mark.
ThisÂ first blog for InterfaithFamily/Boston is about doors opening and lives filled with new beginnings because we welcome each other. There was a time not long ago when almost all doors were shut on intermarried couples. As you can see in this photo, there is a picture of a door. This is not just any door. Itâ€™s not a stock photo either, but the actual door to my actual office in Newton, MA. I wanted to begin my blog by showing you the door to my office. Itâ€™s open and I guarantee you that it will remain open 95 percent of the time. And on the rare occasion that it might be closed, it is still a glass door, where one can easily knock and see and be seen.
Of course you are probably not surprised that this is not a stock photo as itâ€™s not a fancy picture and itâ€™s not a fancy office for that matter (not that there is anything wrong with it. Itâ€™s a lovely office. I am very happy to be here). The reason I put this photo in is not so much for the door itself but rather for the sign that our COO Heather made for me, which greeted me on my first day as director of our newest Your Community, InterfaithFamily/Boston last week, â€śWelcome Josh.â€ť
I smiled when I arrived. This is exactly what the staff of IFF does: We welcome people. Iâ€™m lucky to be located within the InterfaithFamily Headquarters, and to be joining the national staff to bring InterfaithFamily/Boston to the community in which they have made their home. This organization has a very clear purpose and a very important mitzvah that has been role modeled since the days when father Abraham (really the first Jew by choice) ran to welcome three strangers (that turned out to be angels) and did all he could to help make his guests feel more comfortable. Abe washed their feet and ran around being the host with the most, checking in with Sarah, who was making dinner and getting in on the hospitable action. It was a family affair indeed. Everyone took part. Itâ€™s a big deal in Judaism (and many cultures) when guests come to your door.
And itâ€™s funny, because not that much has changed when you think about what makes a good host (or a good guest for that matter). It is all about appreciation. Let me take it up a notch. We are actually acknowledging that there is a holiness in each other by wanting to help the other. For what is holiness when you get right down to it? Holiness is something special, something apart from the ordinary, somethingâ€¦sacred. You do not need to put on a robe or wave around an object or build an ark to get in touch with what is sacred. There is a beauty inside us that is the best of us, and it is in everyone. It is not even hard to find. You are important. You are loved. You count. You matter. And your family matters. Everyone should feel included. The alternative is to be wellâ€¦left out, a stranger in a strange land. No, no, noâ€¦that will not do. We know what that is like. We remember. We have been taught for thousands of years to welcome people, to help people and be grateful for what we have and to share with others. It is what we do. It is the love of life that makes Judaism so special.
If you are from a religion or culture that has some clear differences of background and ritual from your significant other, that can cause some challenges. We know it and we see it. Itâ€™s not easy to be intermarried sometimes. I myself am intermarried and have been a Jewish educator for 13 years. There are questions to be answered and it can be overwhelming trying to please family members and adhere to the demands of a tribe that constantly asks, â€śWhat will the others think?â€ť Much more to come on that topic and how we deal with that question in future blog posts.
But in the meantime, if you live in the Boston area, and are exploring what it means to be in a family of interfaith, I invite you to come visit me or call me or send me an email.Â In fact, part of my job includes leaving my office and meeting you wherever you are. (How cool is that!?) This is both metaphoric and for convenience. Where you are at, I will come to you. Itâ€™s my job so please donâ€™t be shy. My door is open. I believe that there will come a day when many more doors will be open as will hearts and minds. And it all starts here. Welcome.
We all know lots of people who wonâ€™t compromise. One friend spent so much time compromising that he didnâ€™t realize his partner wasnâ€™t compromising at all. Not only was there no balance in that relationship, there was no respect. Trying to find balance is a constant effort but crucial to the success of any relationship.
I remember when I was engaged and planning our wedding, my family had strong opinions about many things. It felt like we were arguing about everything. A friend gave me the best advice: Pick three things.
I have found that this advice can be applied to so many things. When making decisions with a partner, there are a variety of aspects to the decision. Take any hot topic and divide it into sections. The great thing about having a piece of a decision in your control is that you are in control of something. For many people, it is the lack of control that brings out frustration and even anger. And leaving pieces of the decision in other peopleâ€™s hands means that you arenâ€™t acting like a â€ścontrol freakâ€ť and that you are respecting the desires and needs of others.
For example, when you and your partner are looking to buy a house, instead of debating about a specific house, one of you can pick the general location and the other can pick the style of house. If the decision making process gets too contentious, you and your partner should switch priorities. You may find that when you switch roles, the stress disappears.
When searching to buy our home where would be raising our kids, my husband and I debated about schools and school districts. We realized that finding a synagogue to join with a religious school we liked was also a part of the equation. After a while when we still couldnâ€™t reach an agreement on where we wanted to live, we switched priorities. Quickly, we resolved the issue. As long each of us had control over some aspect of the decision process, we ultimately came up with a plan that made us both happy. We both felt that we had input and we were able to respect the otherâ€™s wishes.Â And now for 8 years weâ€™ve been living in a house and an area that we love!
Do you have a technique that helps you negotiate lifeâ€™s decisions? Tell us about it!
Jewish educators (including me) are constantly writing about interfaith familiesâ€”how to engage them, what their challenges are, what this means for the current state and future of Judaism. I thought an interesting way into the conversation would be to record quotes I have heard this week. These quotes are taken from different people and were said in different venuesâ€”from adult education, to talking with parents and grandparents on the phone or in person, to capturing what my own child said during bedtime. These comments capture the range of the concerns people have. Some of them go to the heart of the work we do, and others bring up policy and programmatic challenges.
Rabbi Ari Moffic (left) leading a Jewish education discussion
What would your answers be to these questions or what would your follow-up questions be to these statements?
Things people have said to me this week:
â€śOne of the big issues grandparents face when grandchildren arenâ€™t being raised Jewish is our own guilt.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t want to have to pass a litmus test to get a Jewish education for my children.â€ť
â€śIf God is in my heart, when does God come out? Does God sleep?â€ť (From my four year old)
â€śWe are so busy during the week that we donâ€™t want to be away more from our child on Sunday mornings for drop-off religious school.â€ť
â€śI want to drop off my child on Sundays and go get a coffee and read TheNew York Times.â€ť
â€śThe only way our priest would marry us was if we also had a rabbi and if we promised to pass on Judaism.â€ť
â€śI am very concerned about burial issues that will come up for all of these interfaith couples who arenâ€™t thinking about that yet.â€ť
Twitter challenge for October: Tweet comments you hear other people say about life as an interfaith couple or family, things said at your Jewish programs or by your kids. Your words are the best conversation starters for us at InterfaithFamily!Follow us at @InterfaithFam and tag us in your comments with the hashtag #InterfaithQuotes.
I admit it â€“ I was raised to think that intermarriage is wrong. It has taken awhile but I now am embarrassed by some of the comments I might have made when friends told me they were marrying someone who wasnâ€™t Jewish. I was insensitive. On this Yom Kippur, I want to ask for forgiveness from those whom I have offended. In many instances, I may not have said anything, but the negative thoughts crossed my mind and an expression of disapproval may have crossed my face. Again, I apologize.
In my defense, we all are evolving. We all say things that might have been inappropriate. I donâ€™t lose sleep over insensitive comments I may have made 10 years ago. I was young. I was immature. I am not perfect. I try not to let guilt consume me, but there is a fine line between being conscientious and guilt ridden!
But here is something I hadn’t thought of until a few months ago: Our comments leave scars. I know that I offended some people and that they remember my comment or look of disapproval. So, even though I have evolved, I may have hurt their feelings and I suspect they still remember it. In fact, my act of disapproval may be the last (and only) thing they remember about me. Who was I to judge?
This reminds me of the old Kabbalah story where a child says bad things about someone to a friend. Madonna and Loren Long have rewritten this story for todayâ€™s family in Mr. Peabodyâ€™s Apples. In this story, Mr. Peabody is an elementary school teacher and baseball coach, who one day finds himself ostracized when a child misinterprets an incident and then spreads rumors through their small town. Mr. Peabody silences the gossip by teaching the child how we must choose our words carefully to avoid causing harm to others. The child is told to take a pillow to the baseball field and tear it open. The wind is blowing and all of the feathers fly everywhere.Â Mr. Peabody asks the child to collect the feathers and put them back in the pillow. The child tells him that it is impossible. Like feathers in the wind, we canâ€™t put our words back in our mouths.
Since we canâ€™t take our words or acts back once they are out there, this Yom Kippur I want to say:
1) I apologize for any words, actions or thoughts that may have been insensitive.
2) To anyone who might have offended me, I forgive you and know that we are all evolving. Hopefully, we can all evolve a little faster before we hurt anyone elseâ€™s feelings.
I wish for all of us that our personal journeys take us to a place of kindness and understanding. Happy New Year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
I, like you, receive a large number of email messages every day. Messages from list serves often go unopened and unread. However, I was intrigued by the headline: â€śIt’s that time of the year when Craig n’ Company offers you free Inspiration for the holy days without the Guilt!â€ť
I kept reading. Jewels of Elul Vol IX, The Art of Welcoming is a booklet featuring â€śJewelsâ€ť from a wide variety of esteemed contributors. I donâ€™t usually respond to name dropping, but this time it worked. On the list I saw my childhood rabbi, music specialists I worked with throughout my career, Rabbis and communal leaders I really look up to â€“ I was in! Of course, it took 12 days before I finally clicked on my first (second, third and fourth) messages from this group of esteemed Jewish leaders. I quickly found that each message truly is a jewel!
I want to share with you an excerpt from email #9 in the series (you can sign up to receive Jewels one by one in your inbox), the words of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Legal Counsel for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. His article, titled Treat The Stranger That There Be No Stranger posits the following:
For more than a century, American Jewryâ€™s passionate effort to ensure that America was a welcoming country for immigrants was infused by powerful historical lessons. We were, of course, the quintessential immigrant people, fleeing from land to land, looking for those rare countries that would welcome and perhaps even protect us. Our effort was, as well, a reflection of biblical values. We take pride that the most oft-repeated command of our tradition is to treat the stranger as ourselves. But what of our own community and our synagogues?
In 1978, Rabbi Alexander Schindler vigorously called on us to reach out to â€śall who enter,â€ť to open our congregations to intermarried families, later to the LGBT community, then to Jews through paternal descent. And then he called for our synagogues to become â€ścaring communitiesâ€ť serving the actual needs of their members. There followed a different kind of welcoming as synagogues opened their hearts, doors and resources to absorb the deluge of â€śboat peopleâ€ť from Southeast Asia; Soviet Jews, Sudanese refugees, Ethiopian Jews all followed.
Along the way, there were efforts to make our synagogues more accessible to differently abled Jews whose physical and mental capabilities made integration into our schools, our services, our programs an often discomforting challengeâ€¦ In this New Year, may we so treat the stranger that there be no stranger in Americaâ€™s synagogues.
I am challenging each of us as individuals to do our part for our community (big or small, near or far, no matter how you define community). In this New Year, what will YOU do to enable the differently abled, to welcome the stranger, the new immigrant, interfaith families, LGBTQ? How will you help the poor or feed the hungry?
If each of us does one thing to help the world, we can embody tikkun olam (repairing the world) and become a stronger world because of our efforts. You may not be required to solve all the worldâ€™s problems, but neither can you desist from trying to do your part (adapted from Pirkei Avot, 2:21).
I love questions that do not have one right answer. They allow each of us to explore the question and connect in our own way. Defining what it means to be Jewish is a perfect example. Close your eyes. What images come to mind when you think about what it means to be Jewish?
The InterfaithFamily staff from across the country (San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston) came together for two days of retreat and meetings in our national office. One of the first questions posed to us was â€śWhat does it mean to be Jewish?â€ť In true retreat style, paper and markers were brought out and we each got to draw our own answer to this profound question.
What would you draw to show what it means to be Jewish?
I drew a picture of a home and, next to it, people holding hands in a circle. You may notice that my artistic ability is not amazing. My people took the form of stick figures and I showed diversity by using every color of marker that was available. As I started to think about how to explain my drawing to my colleagues, I realized you could â€śreadâ€ť my picture from left to right like English, or from right to left like Hebrew.
In â€śEnglish,â€ť my drawing says that one needs Judaism in their home to transmit values and traditions to the next generation. Then, one needs a community to share those values and traditions. To deepen the connections and share the experiences. But my explanation didnâ€™t stop there.
I thought about my own familyâ€™s history and that of many interfaith households. For them, Judaism often starts with the community, reading my picture in â€śHebrew.â€ť It is with this community and their support that each individual family can find Jewish traditions and values that they want to embrace. Often they donâ€™t have the tools to do this on their own. For them the community aspect is imperative. And with a supportive community, Judaism can infuse into traditions in the home as well.
My colleagues came up with so many different interpretations. Iâ€™m curious what you imagine when you answer the question, â€śWhat does it mean to be Jewish?â€ť Please share your thoughts in the comments sectionâ€”and remember, there is not one â€śrightâ€ť answer.
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