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An Eloquent Statement About The State of American Judaism

February 25, 2011

From USCJ via The Forward

My good friend, Dan Cedarbaum, forwarded me and a couple of other folks a very telling article from last Friday’s Forward, Liberal Denominations Face Crisis as Rabbis Rebel, Numbers Shrink.

My response was:  “Pretty grim.  
We need  a magic bullet to get folks believing again.  How about turning LA into a huge pillar of salt?”

Of course, this was written with a large wink.  But Richard Marker made an interesting reply, part of which was:  “Mark, at the risk of challenging your assumption, I don’t believe that the answer is to get people to believe again but to accept that we are truly in a post-denominational era and adjust institutions to that.”

To which my good friend, Kayla Niles*, responded with one of the most succinct and elegant descriptions of the state of Judaism in the United States (if not the world) today.  Here it is:

I think the faith that is required is in the idea that Judaism is not the province of individuals and individual synagogues,  but rather the enterprise of the Jewish People, and that national and supra-national organizations matter. I think that the people in the “post-denominational” American synagogues would be caught up short very quickly if there was no organized voice to, for example, to speak for us in Israel on the conversion bill, or lobby the American govt on behalf of Jews or Israel (from either side of the politics) or produce textbooks for their children’s education, or run camps for them or other services that synagogues cannot do alone. The problem is identifying the right issues, fixing the groupings so they are properly aligned and do not compete with each other, and marketing the premise to the people. We are not a religion. We are a tribe, and connections need to be there to make sense out of our religious civilization.

Whew!  That is a weighty statement – but one that resounds with truth.  Thank you for that, Kayla.

* Kayla has been fighting the battle of “saving” American Jewry for as long as I have known her (which has been about 8 years or so).  I am sure that there is more than this, but here are some highlights:
  • She owned and ran a Jewish overnight camp
  • She was one of the original Board members of the Foundation for Jewish Camp
  • She served on the Board of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (z”l) and the Board of the Jewish Reconstructionist Camping Corporation
  • She was co-chair of the orginal capital campaign that funded Camp JRF – which has become one of the foremost successes of the Recon Movement
  • She has served on multiple Recon synagogue boards
Categories: Israel
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