Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Why American Judaism is self-destructing and what to do about it

By Rabbi Mark Miller and Harold Berman





A Gutsy Duo -- a Leading Reform Rabbi and a Formerly Intermarried Orthodox Jew -- Take on the Jewish establishment

JewishWorldReview.com | Imagine Johnny, showing up for school, and struggling to read. He doesn't like reading, and would rather be out playing basketball. Imagine that in response, his parents say, "that's ok, Johnny. It's your choice whether to read or not. If reading doesn't make you feel good, then don't do it. The most important thing is to do whatever makes you comfortable."

Imagine that a few years pass and Johnny is now old enough to get behind the wheel. He disregards the other drivers and all the road signs (which he can't read anyway). Because, honestly, it's too much of a hassle. As drivers slam on their brakes, swerving to avoid Johnny, they all say, "that's ok, Johnny's just doing what feels right for him as an individual."

Absurd, of course. Yet in our Jewish world, it's all quite normal. We've transformed Judaism into a cult of the individual. And we've created a crisis of low expectations.

One of us is a Reform rabbi with over 40 years in the pulpit, while the other was born and bred in the Reform movement, intermarried but ultimately chose to become a traditional Jew (as did his wife). From different vantage points, we've both been watching for decades as the pendulum has swung away from commitment to the transcendent and toward the slavish worship of autonomy, away from Jewish norms and toward "I'm ok, you're ok," away from being part of the Jewish people and toward the "sovereign self."

This crisis of low expectations has been nothing short of disastrous. We're losing our children in droves. Outside of Orthodoxy, our synagogues are hemorrhaging. Once vibrant Jewish communities are imploding at a rapid clip.

We've heard all the rationalizations: Jews aren't really assimilating — we're just evolving and finding new ways to express ourselves. Intermarriage isn't really an issue — after all, don't some intermarried families make some Jewish choices? A person may connect to Judaism through klezmer music or watching Fiddler on the Roof or eating herring — who are we to say that that's any less an expression of Judaism than learning Torah and observing its duties?

But at the end of the day, the rationalizations remain rationalizations, while the wreckage on the ground continues unabated. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The time has come to leave the cold comfort of our rationalizations and face the cold reality before us.

"What cold reality are you talking about?" the critics will fire back. "We have to be warm and welcoming. We have to meet people where they are. In a time of assimilation, we can ill afford to make demands on people. We should just be grateful if they do anything at all. And yes, it's all about their individual choice."

It was also Einstein who said that problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. This worship of the self with no strings attached is what has caused the predicament we find ourselves in. Simply forging ahead with more of the same isn't going to turn the tide.

In truth, what we're doing isn't warm and welcoming at all. Sure, when an intermarried family or an assimilated Jew comes along, we open our doors. We smile at them. We tell them how grateful we are that they've come. We tell the non-Jewish spouse how delighted we are that she drives the children to Hebrew school. But we don't talk about commitment. We don't talk about working hard to serve a higher purpose. We don't actually ask anything of them.


FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO INFLUENTIAL NEWSLETTER

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". In addition to INSPIRING stories, HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


Our doors may be open, but just like Johnny's friends and relatives, we don't act like we care. If Johnny's friends and relatives truly cared, it would bother them that Johnny can't read. And if we were truly welcoming, if we truly cared, then it would actually matter to us that Johnny can't pray, that Johnny can't read Hebrew, that Johnny knows precious little about Judaism.

But much of the liberal Jewish world continues to insist that it's all about individual choice. It's not — because we aren't giving Jews a choice at all. When a child emerges from years of Hebrew school and can barely read Hebrew, have we given him the ability to choose whether or not to plumb the depths of our Jewish texts? When a Jew intermarries and does not know even the basics of keeping a Jewish home, have we given him the ability to choose what kind of Jewish home he will have?

A choice made out of ignorance or inability is no choice at all. We betray a profound lack of caring when we continue to talk about individual choice in this context. When we continue to say that it's all the same. Whether you observe or not. Whether you intermarry or not. Whether you convert or not. Whether you keep kosher or not. Whether you observe Shabbat or not. Whether your children create Jewish homes or not.

When someone cares enough to tell a Jew that these things do matter, that one is a better choice than the other, the inevitable Pavlovian condemnation ensues. Meanwhile, we continue to rob that Jew of his choices. We continue to offer him smiles instead of substance. We continue to wring our hands about Jewish continuity in general, but not get too worked up when it comes to the individual before us.

And so, when given the freedom to "choose" in this context, most choose little or nothing. But no religion, much less Judaism, can be built on such a shaky foundation. Without a commitment-based Judaism, without a Judaism that transcends the self, without a Judaism that demands and gets the best people have to give, the downward spiral will continue.

Examples abound of teachers in impoverished schools who accomplished the seemingly miraculous by setting the bar high. For that matter, the religious groups that flourish the most are those that expect the most from their adherents. So here's a modest proposal to start:


  • Expect much more from our Hebrew schools, our children, and our adults. We complain that Hebrew school offers little time to produce results. But if our children are spending hours a week over the course of several years in Hebrew school, there is no reason they can't achieve basic Hebrew fluency, a general understanding of what is in the Hebrew Bible and a good overview of the cycle of the Hebrew calendar. But only if we expect no less.

  • Even as we focus on the "what" and "how" of Jewish life, let's insist on discussing the "why." Why be Jewish? Why believe in the Divine? Why commit to observing Judaism's commandments? Why be part of a Jewish community? We may not all come to the same conclusions. But we need to move the conversation well beyond Jewish survival, Jewish culture, anti-Semitism and "getting through" the Bar Mitzvah, and find a way for all Jews to grapple seriously with what it means to be Jewish, what our purpose is in the world, and why it all matters.

  • When we encounter new Jewish faces, let's take "warm and welcoming" as a given and quickly move on to the beauty and depth of our tradition that will keep them coming back. Let's make it clear that to do this well, like anything else worth doing, will require a lot of effort on their part, but that their hard work will yield a treasure.


The time has come to recognize that the pendulum must begin to swing in a new direction. Our worship of the self has gotten us into this mess. It now remains to be seen whether we will realize that the emperor has no clothes. Or whether we will continue to rationalize that he really isn't naked. .


ENJOYED THE ARTICLE?

YOU'LL LOVE THIS BOOK

Buy it for just $11.69 by clicking here or order in KINDLE edition at a 62% discount, $4.99 by clicking here


JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Comment by clicking here.

Harold Berman is the co-author of "Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope," the first true-life account of "an intermarriage gone Jewish." (http://www.doublelifejourney.com) Harold is the former Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

Rabbi Mark Miller, currently Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach, California, served the Reform congregation as its Senior Rabbi for thirty-five years, leading it from its small and humble beginnings to its position as one of the premier Reform Jewish synagogues in Southern California.







© 2013 JewishWorldReview.com

FOOT_DELIMITER ; echo $article_footer; } ?>

Quantcast