This report is certainly a welcome contribution to the discussion. As I was reading, however, I was struck by the core unstated assumption of the document, that Jews should “engage” or be “committed” to Israel. I would question that underlying normative assumption. No serious pluralistic organization would claim that Jews should “engage” or be “committed” to halacha, arguably a much more central element of historic Jewish life and culture than the 60 year old state of Israel.
It is exactly this assumption that undermines the otherwise wonderful suggestions of this report. Please do not misunderstand me, given the current place of Israel in mainstream Jewish discourse I do not think one can be part of a Jewish community and avoid the issue (as much as I may wish that were the case). Given that Israel is imposed on American Jews, I think your encouragement of dialogue over advocacy is a step in the right direction. And yet, the enclosed report’s assumption that Israel must be a part of Jewish identity and conversation furthers the imposition of Israel onto an American Judaism that is beginning to articulate an independent set of values. I want to encourage Synagogue 3000 to continue the important work of asking about the role of Israel in synagogue life, I just hope that that role can be interrogated rather than taken for granted. That is, I think S3K has a responsibility to articulate the why or why not of engaging with Israel at all before suggesting the how. I would be deeply curious to see how these unstated assumptions become articulated. As they do, I would encourage them not to take for granted the idea that Israel should be a part of American Judaism. If we did not have Israel engagement as a crutch, we may be forced to actually create a compelling and relevant diaspora Judaism.
I am so glad you had the opportunity to experience the Adventure Rabbi way of welcoming people back to Judaism. I wanted to build on your reaction about hiking with us in Moab. As you said, we hiked up to the huge arch under which we had our Seder. cool photos here http://www.adventurerabbi.org/photo_gallery.htm>> the hike was bit tricky and you commented that every time you turned about someone was offering you a hand up (or down) the red sandstone.
In our congregations, we all try with all our might to create community. We try to invite people to reach out a hand and help another. But how often does it work, unless someone is in really major distress? We live in a society of self sufficiency. Its hard to ask or take help. What I love about the outdoor model is it truly give people the opportunity to reach out and help someone and to accept help. I tell people, ” Even if you don’t need a hand up the rock, take it. How often in life does someone offer you a hand?” It is a very powerful experience to let someone help you up a rock, even when you don’t need it.
I believe that this physical helping of each other translates into a caring community that can then emotionally reach out to each other and spiritually reach toward God.
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, Adventure Rabbi
You will find many ways to bring this type of teaching indoors in my book God in the Wilderness (Doubleday, 2008). http://www.adventurerabbi.org/buy/
One suggestion is to do a text study of Psalm 23. Why is it that the Psalmist write about God leading us beside still water and green meadows? What is it about natural places that bring us comfort and connection?
You might also look at the end of Job. Why des God take Job on tour of the wilderness instead of just answering his question of “why me?” God has an answer to that question, but chooses instead to tour Job around the wild place. Why? Are these metaphors, or did our ancestors truly go outside when they wished to connect with God?
Many of your congregants may have has spiritual moments outdoors and if you can show them how those experiences are Jewish, you have opened door to making Judaism more meaningful to them.
There are discussion guides for my book at http://www.godinthewilderness.com/