A few weeks ago, my husband passed me the New York Times and said, "You should definitely read this article on page 11." I saw the headline, "Poll Shows Major Shift in Identity of U.S. Jews," and my heart sank. I knew which direction it was going. Down. That was my first reaction, before I read everyone’s responses to the study; the reactions fell into the “mea culpa” camp.
The Opinion piece, “When Judaism Becomes Kmart” (Oct. 4), by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, echoed many of my own sentiments regarding the plethora of “garage” and “pop-up” synagogues cropping up on the North Shore of Long Island.
Trend lines suggest continued erosion, but that’s not the whole story.
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Not surprisingly, there has already been a large wave of reactions to the first major national survey of American Jews in more than a decade, with its sobering, if not bleak, portrait of a community on the fast track toward assimilation.
The Jews as a chosen people is one of the most fundamental ideas in Judaism, historically, philosophically and culturally. The very nature of our national and religious identity, as defined in the Bible, is bound up with the story of the Divine revelation at Sinai and the election of the Jewish people as a chosen and special people (Exodus19:5/6). Our prayers are replete with references to this, particularly on the holidays when the primary blessing of the Amidah, or silent devotion, opens with the declaration, “You have chosen us from all the nations.”
Ever since the old AmericaOnline, people have used the Internet as a way to learn more about religion and to engage with likeminded co-religionists. The Senior Religion Editor of Huffington Post, Paul Raushenbush, published an interesting article about the search for religion on the Web. He writes that "Religion is one of the hottest areas of the Internet because religion is one of the most intense and contested arenas of human relations and ideas." He's right.
With the completion of the cycle of holidays that ushered in the new Jewish calendar year, one could almost hear the audible sigh of relief from all quarters of the Jewish community. No more sick days that need to be depleted, no more classes that need to be missed, no more relentless assault of unending, overwhelming holiday meals…we’ve been ready for this for a long time, and it feels awfully good to have reached the holiday-less month of Heshvan.