Archive for July, 2006
[A note from Synablog editor Shawn Landres: The following is an edited partial transcript of remarks made
in May on April 30 2006 by S3K Leadership Network member Rabbi Sharon Brous at UCLA Hillel as part of Los Angeles's People of the Book Festival. It's taken S3K some time to get the transcript together but we think it's still worth thinking about.
At crisis times like this, when Israel and Lebanon are burning, many unaffiliated Jews feel a need for connection to one another and for ways to express their concern and support for the victims of suffering. At the same time they are wary of knee-jerk institutional reactions that, at best, do not honor the complexity and depth of their own commitments and, at worst, attempt to impose one emotional/political option to the exclusion of all others. Indeed, studies repeatedly have shown that many Jews find themselves on the margins of communal life precisely because of their ambivalence and confusion about the situation in the Middle East. Sharon's comments, though spoken this past spring, paradoxically are all the more important today, as both American Jews and the American Jewish community (not always the same thing) search for meaningful and productive ways, as she wrote recently, "to be unabashed in our support of the people and State of Israel, and at the same time, unapologetic in our sensitivity to the innocents on all sides of the conflict who have been caught up in the violence." Members of the S3K Leadership Network and leaders of other sacred communities currently are developing creative and effective responses that express both solidarity and sensitivity.]
[R'SAB 4/30/06] It seems to me that our community has made some real miscalculations in addressing the growing demographic of young people who are completely detached from institutional organized Jewish life. One of the most unfortunate strategies has been the framing of religious messages based on a perception of what the market looks like, rather than based on where the soul is, where the soul of our community should be. So our leadership is knocking itself out to turn Judaism into something incredibly appealing to young people, something sexy and smart and glossy and attractive. At the core of that approach is a great distrust of this demographic. It is to say that we really don’t believe that there are people searching for a true, deep, authentic, spiritual, and religious connection to Judaism, so a glossy brochure is the best we can do to bring them in – this, rather than speaking about the fire, the core of what Jewish life really is about. This of course only serves to further alienate.
[R'SAB 4/30/06] I have heard this from hundreds and hundreds of people in the twenties and thirties – and also from people outside that demographic. The simple reality is that many of our institutions are no longer presenting a compelling story for Jews. What we need is to articulate a way that our own Jewish connection, our spirituality, and our sense of religious connection are absolutely and intimately a part of the way that we engage in the world.
[R'SAB 4/30/06] Right now there is a great void on the world’s stage – we are missing a serious, progressive religious voice. Some Jews and Christians have demanded that the progressive religious communities really take a stand and have a voice on the global stage, but by and large, most of the progressive communities are silent.
[R'SAB 4/30/06] What we tried to do in creating IKAR was to establish a community that from the outset would be fully committed to the integration of the personal, spiritual, political and religious dimensions of our lives. We worked to express this connection as clearly and as authentically as possible, to show the real rootedness of social justice and human rights in the traditional Jewish texts. And in doing this, we found that we could create a community of purpose and meaning, one in which people would feel inspired to actually go out and work as Jews — not just because it"s a good thing to do but because they truly believe that their Jewish life mandates that they engage the world in this way.
[R'SAB 4/30/06] Many young people in are resonating to this message. We are realizing that if we say to people, “You have a short attention span, you don’t want anything real,” then they will respond that way. If we treat people as though they have depth, purpose, and a real need for an authentic religious message—then they will respond in that way.
[R'SAB 4/30/06] It seems to me that it is incumbent upon the Jewish community to rethink our whole agenda. So much of the way that we have been functioning for the past several decades has been about strengthening, supporting and sustaining institutions for their own sake, rather than really thinking about what is at the core of what it means to be a Jew and a human being in the world, and how we communicate that message in a way that people can hear and actually truly be transformed by it. That was the basis of our community, and that is why we call it IKAR, because the idea was to get back to the heart of what Judaism is actually all about – to sidestep the politics of the Jewish community that obfuscate the real fire of Torah in the first place.
[R'SAB 4/30/06] The core fundamental claim that our tradition makes is that every human being is created in image of God and therefore has innate dignity and worth in the world. What does it mean to operate as a Jew in the world when this is your core operating assumption? How do you create a Shabbat experience, how do you eat, how do you talk to each other through the lens of this core Jewish claim of human dignity? That is what we are working to do.
Today, with the introduction of Jew 2.0, I declare the Jewish continuity agenda officially discontinued.
Jew 2.0 is both an attempt to redefine the Jewish institutional agenda and to empower Jewish professionals in this new paradigm. Most simply put, Jew 2.0 is a weblog which aims to explore Judaism"s intersection with marketing and technology.
Joshua Avedon and I are honored to have been invited to participate, so we’ll see some cross-posting there and here from time to time.