Being Jewish - Thursday, June 14

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:34am -- Rabbi Shalom Lewis

Rabbi Shalom LewisThe alarming underbelly of our vitality and continuity is a growing number of young Jews who see no value in being Jewish. Their birth into a faith community is perceived as a quirk of biology, easily molted, as they pursue a life in which spiritual discipline and ritual beauty play no part. Apostates embracing license, affixing no mezuzah, observing no Shabbos, circumcising no sons, naming no daughters, studying no Torah. Their abandonment of three thousand years is laden with no guilt nor regret. In fact, for many, it is a triumphant cry of liberation from parochialism. A celebration of emancipation from what they believe to be a primitive, stifling system. We who appreciate Judaism find it disturbing that so many, so deeply want no part of this great treasure. A brilliant legacy that enriched and civilized half this planet and yet we witness happy defectors who dismiss as their inheritance the Prophets and the Psalms, Einstein and Broadway. Read them the list of Jewish Nobel laureates as evidence of our exceptionalism and they decry the effort as arrogance and bigotry and unholy particularism. I am baffled by such rejection and ask myself, ‘Why do so many live lives that are totally dismissive of our stunning heritage?’. I fear we have bred a generation that accepts no restrictions, no boundaries, that has giddily fled the ghetto for the glamour of the big city. As one famous turncoat eloquently expressed years ago in the Old Country, ‘Better a professor in Frankfort than a melamed in Bialystok’. Have we heaped too many laws on our youth? Have they misunderstood our embrace of equality? Is our demographic too piddling? Is the seduction of secularism irresistible? To instill pride and fidelity in the emerging population will take a special blend of delicacy and tough fist pounding, but the odds, I suspect, are stacked against us.  Perhaps we are living in the age, best expressed by an astute historian… that when it’s good for the Jews, it’s bad for Judaism and when it’s bad for the Jews, it’s good for Judaism.

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