Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Is At The Center Of Judaism Today?

I remember having a conversation about six months ago with a friend who had become religious. He asked me what was at the center of everything we are doing in our Jewish community organizing, in our blogging, and our actions.

It isn't an easy question to answer. Why are we trying to bring people together? To promote a certain culture, belief system, and lifestyle? What is at the core?

For him, the answer was simple. Literally, it was one word, "Torah". Seriously, he said that ultimately, everything that we as Jews do, has to revolve around the Torah. I bring it up now after a conversation I had yesterday with the Rabbi of the Traditional Congregation.

Tuesday, Next Dor hosted a meeting of the Rabbinical Association of St. Louis, to which most if not all congregational Rabbis, plus a few organizational (JCC) and chaplain Rabbis belong.

It was an opportunity to showcase the progress made on the house and to show the reality of what Next Dor STL is doing. I had the opportunity to present and also was able to speak one-on-one with a few of the Rabbis after their meeting.

This particular Rabbi posed an interesting challenge to our model, explaining that it is not enough to 'just have Jewish people doing things together'. He asked, more directly, where is the 'Jewish' part of it.

This isn't the first time the question has been posed, and it is an interesting question, which puts a certain marker upon the interrogator. You see, Judaism is a religion, but Jews are far more than practitioners or believers of this religion. We have grown from a small tribe into various ethnic and cultural offshoots, with varying degrees of traditions, rituals, and beliefs.

To illustrate this Rabbi's perspective a bit better, when I told him that our board, having held a meeting on a Saturday night, spontaneously decided to have Havdalah, he responded that while he found it a positive that we 'chose' to hold the ritual, for him it is not a matter of wanting, but of being commanded.

Are a secular Jewish world view and a religious Jewish world view incompatible? Are they inconsistent? If nothing else, this exchange opens the doors to some interesting dialogue, would you show up if we hosted this Rabbi to discuss and debate his views?

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