Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

From ancient times, our Torah describes the 10 plagues brought by God to force the hand of the Pharaoh, enabling the exodus of our ancestors from Egypt. These 10 plagues attacked the “gods” of ancient Egypt, demonstrating Adonai, God alone, is One and All-Powerful. To counteract the survival of the Egyptian mindset inside the hearts and minds of our ancestors required a direct response. The 10 plagues were that response. Today, a different type of “plague” creates a peril for our Jewish survival and viability. We need an action plan to respond.

From Jerusalem, my teacher Rabbi David Golinkin identifies 10 contemporary plagues threatening our Jewish future:

1. Assimilation: desire of minorities to merge into society

2. Secularism: denial of the value of religion and by extension of our Jewish heritage

3. Individualism: the cult of self-interest in contrast to demands of Jewish Peoplehood

4. Materialism: obsession with acquiring wealth, possessions and technology leaving little space for other commitments

5. Anti-Zionism: Jewish embarrassment caused by relentless unfavorable portrayals of Israel in the media and holding the Jewish State to an impossible standard of behavior

6. Jewish illiteracy: an unprecedented percentage of Jewish people lacking basic Jewish knowledge and even personal motivational Jewish memories

7. Geographic Mobility and Dispersion: increasingly, Jews move to areas with limited Jewish institutional options 8. Jewish religious polarization: much of Orthodoxy is moving to the far right and much of “non-Orthodox” Jewry are moving to the far left, fragmenting Jewish unity

9. Interfaith marriage: Jews seeking to establish a Jewish home are marrying later – find difficulty meeting spouses; for those who have intermarried, greater the need to be embraced by and nurtured by the Jewish community

10. Erosion of Jewish family structure: in addition to marrying later, Jews are having children later, settling far from extended family, all too often experiencing divorce

An affirmative response is provided by Conservative/Masorti Judaism throughout the world. We serve the needs of 2.1 million folks who self-identify with our Movement: 1.2 million in the US, 350K in Israel, 300K in Latin America, 150K in Canada, 50K in Europe, 50K throughout Mexico, Australia, FSU, Africa and Asia.

Temple Judea is a place to pray and we are a caring community. I do my best both to know Jewish law and communicate Jewish heritage into a modern-day idiom for all stages of life.

Our Judaism balances classic wisdom and scientific truths, both sacred study and historical and critical scholarship.

Our Judaism is non-judgmental; welcoming Jews regardless of current level of observance on “a ladder of commitments.”

Our Judaism is both committed to traditional beliefs and validates theological grappling, doubts, growth and lapses.

Our Judaism sees commitment to Israel and Jewish Peoplehood as a bulwark against assimilation; not as “all or nothing” but along a continuum; committed to Aliya, and visits, programs.

Our Judaism sees “TORAH” as every manifestation of our people’s experiences with God and the world around us: Bible, Talmud, Codes, Midrash, Philosophy, Literature, Ethics, more.

Our unique approach is what my teacher Rabbi Harold Schulweis z”l called “both/and,” rejecting as misguided an “either/or” point of view. “Both/and” is the best manner to respond to current challenges to Jewish continuity. 

B’vrachot, blessings,

Rabbi Dennis