Ever since my earliest grade school lessons, I wondered why Adam and Chava weren’t Jewish. I wondered why God appointed one nation to bear the responsibility of being a light onto the nations. I wondered why Judaism was even necessary, and why the whole world isn’t expected to live by Jewish values and ideals. I learned many different perspectives over the years, and along the journey I read a number of books that contributed to my appreciation for Judaism. The books that spoke to me most were those that didn’t prop up Judaism by putting other religions down, nor did they encourage Jewish pride simply as a response to persecution. They didn’t offer quick-fix answers to complex issues, and they didn’t try to explain away areas that gave me pause and created discomfort. One of those books is: Does the World Need the Jews, by Daniel Gordis. Gordis talks about the identity crisis facing American Jewry; our having lost our Jewish voice because we have no idea what to say.
In one paragraph he writes: “Those who downplay this identity crisis among American Jews are quick to point out that ours is not the first generation of Jews who could leave their community. They note that Jews have always had that option, and they are right. But they are wrong to suggest that nothing is new. They are wrong because of the sheer numbers of people making this choice. But more importantly, they are wrong because our is a generation in which people leave Judaism not by making a conscious decision to leave, but just by drifting away. Ours is the first generation in which huge numbers of Jews left the world of Jewish life without even giving it much thought, lured away by the currents of culture that makes Judaism seem of little consequence…We have no clear conception of what might be special or important about our culture, our religion, or our way of life. We have no clue as to why we matter.”
This is an important read for everyone, and in particular if you are finding the phenomena described above facing your adolescent children. Last week we celebrated the re-dedication of the Temple. Let’s continue by re-dedicating ourselves to a better understanding of our Jewish mission.