Little boxes...

Last Friday, I was asked, not for the first time, if I would be an Orthodox Rabbi if I could. I'm always amazed at how surprised the questioners are when I respond 'no'. I know I am confusing to people. I don't fit neatly into people's boxes of how each denomination in Judaism should be, and to tell you the truth, I am a little bit pleased!

I am a proud British Reform Jew. I believe in it as a movement, as a philosophy, a way of life, and a theology that is right for me. It is a movement that encourages informed, ethical decision making, rooted in our tradition and committed to creating a Judaism that has a viable future because it brings meaning, joy and comfort into each of its practitioners lives. I have found that my informed decision making has led me to a place where observing mitzvot (commandments and good deeds) such as shabbat and kashrut in what is often seen (not by me) as being an 'orthodox' way. My theology behind these practices I will save for another day, but they are rooted in my liberalism and Tikkun Olam- repair of the world. I don't personally believe in a God who is concerned with the minutaie of whether I eat a bacon sandwich or not, but the ethical behaviour that those practices instill in me personally make me better able to fulfil the potential I believe God has created in me. It is for each of us to discover how best to live so that we might make the most of this life.

I know these boxes of belonging are made even more blurry by the fact that my lovely husband is a practising Orthodox Jew. This has very much been his informed choice, and I celebrate the fact that he knows where he is religiously and spiritually comfortable, even if it is not the choice I would make. Again this is rooted in a theology that is probably best saved for another day, but for me is very much rooted in a commitment to pluralism, and a limited post-modern understanding of truth.

At Limmud conference last year we attended a session on 'post-denominationalism' as we have often been told we are a marriage that represents this. It was a fantastic panel, and we left the session feeling quite clear for ourselves that we aren't 'post-denominational' - we are both deeply committed to our own forms of Judaism. At home, however, we are just committed to Judaism.

It is important for each denomination to have a proud, clear identity, and to know what it positively represents, and I certainly self-define as a proud Reform and Progressive Jew, whatever labels others wish to honour me with. But I do wonder if perhaps we need to shift the rhetoric. We worry far too much about what others think of us and how others do things. Perhaps the key delineator today isn't about which denomination you belong to, those these remain important as authentic ways to practice Judaism, but for a viable future to the Jewish community, we need to be worried about who is engaged with their Judaism, and how many people have lost any connection to the positives Judaism can bring to their life.

For me my Judaism is a constant source of joy, wisdom, and intellectual struggle and interest. The greatest joy for me as Rabbi is empowering others to discover what in their Judaism will bring meaning and happiness, comfort and community. To my mind it is these things that will provide a viable future for Judaism, indeed for any community, of any faith or none.


Popular Posts