Iowa may be the Achilles' heel in the fabled power of the Israel lobby. Unfortunately, Jews are losing the state.
There are about 6,000 Jews in Iowa according to the latest Statistical Abstract of the United States. That means only one in 500 Iowans is Jewish. By comparison, New York, California, and Illinois have 1.6 million, 1.2 million, and 278 thousand Jews, representing 8.3 percent, 3.3 percent, and 2.2 percent of their respective state populations. The challenge to maintain basic religious services in Iowa leaves little leadership to defend Israel and the Jewish people.
Compact, shoulder to shoulder -- young and old, preschoolers, high schoolers, singles, same sex couples with their toddlers, middle-aged parents whose disaffected teens find themselves tapping along in spite of themselves, grandparents with their grandchildren.
No high ceilinged church-like space required. No sound systems or balconies.
I spent a few weeks in Israel this summer and couldn’t help but notice a fascinating trend developing, one that might help those of us back here to overcome our uneasiness about Jerusalem, with its fundamentalist leanings and shady politics.
A deep Jewish ethical value is not like the piercing, intermittent light of a laser, cutting through hard metals, but it is like the diffuse, continuous light of the sun, warming our planet, a source of energy and life. “God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them…” (Genesis 1:27). In the Jewish tradition, one of the main human values understood to be inherent in this verse is the aspiration of kavod habriyot, variously translated as individual honor or human dignity.
Rosh HaShanah not only marks the turn of the Jewish calendar year from 5770 to 5771, it also celebrates the fundamental human need for liberation, return and renewal.
The Jewish holidays, especially Rosh HaShanah, are not only for Jews. In fact, they celebrate the most basic human quest — the quest to make our lives richer, happier and more productive. They also invite us to think about how to help others achieve the same things.
I recently learned the term "bageling,” in which you make known your status as a member of the Tribe to a fellow member, without ever saying so directly. As in approaching someone with a yarmulke and saying, “Gee, it’s as hot as Tisha B’Av today, don’t you think?”
Or, for example, a client with a WASP-sounding name managed to tell me about his son's bar mitzvah, coming up in five years. These people, and there are tens of thousands of them, want to be identified as Jews. But where does that go and how far?
Rabbi Avi Weiss’ recent introduction of women-led Kabbalat Shabbat services in his synagogue has produced yet another kerfuffle among his rabbinical colleagues, albeit one significantly subdued when compared with the recent “Rabba” controversy. And Rabbi Michael Broyde, a noted rabbinic scholar, has once again responded with an article that purports to outline the “normative” Orthodox position on Rabbi Weiss’ latest innovation. Not surprisingly, that position is different than Rabbi Weiss’.