23 mayo 2010

A New Judaism for a New Millennium

And so friends, we are at a major crossroads in Jewish history... one with profound challenges and limitless possibilities... calling for courage, creativity and vision, no less than at the other critical turning points in the 5000 year epoch of our People's past! The challenge of survival, and the promise of renewal and renaissance, that this new millennium holds for Judaism and the Jewish People, calls for nothing less than revolutionary, radical responses… nothing less than the courageous transformation of our Jewish community!

We must redeem our Faith and our People from a predominately, social and culturally defined, Israel-centered, Holocaust-obsessed remnant, into a post-ethnic, universally-visioned spiritual force! We must reclaim a religious community that cherishes, but is not dominated — nor drained of its own integrity and resources — by its special relationship to our brothers and sisters the land of Israel. We must, in this new century, be a community that forever remembers with reverence the precious martyrs and moral lessons of the Shoah, but is prepared to renew itself and move on, to focus on the future. We must move beyond the facile and shallow substitutes of "Jewishness" to reclaim our vision as a religious community, defined and experienced by our timeless, transcendent ideals — our search for the encounter with God... our commitment to working for justice and peace in human society... and our study of Torah that will empower us to seek the life-transforming resources of meaning, comfort, wisdom, guidance and inspiration that our tradition offers for our daily lives...

Yes... this may well sound radical... and there is no question that much of this would be considered shocking heresy by the mainstream Jewish establishment. And yet, this is what Radical-Classical Reform has always taught that Judaism in America should be. And this is what Jewish life, energies, resources, and education, must all become about, once again... not the desperate, cheap substitutes we offer to our justifiably alienated kids... GOD and TORAH... ETHICAL VALUES and LOVINGKINDESS... THE STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE... not multimillion dollar JCC's with pools and health clubs and pottery workshops... FAITH and LEARNING... and not the illusion that an obscenely elaborate Bar Mitzvah celebration... or a summer on a kibbutz... or the exploitation of the Holocaust as a guilt tactic... are panaceas to ensure Jewish loyalty and commitment among our young people — now or in the future.

Only if we reclaim that historic Radical-Reform vision of a vital Jewish spiritual renewal... only if we have the confidence in Judaism's universal message, the willingness to rededicate ourselves to those ideals, and the courage to proclaim and share them with others — only then can we even dare to hope that a century from tonight — on the Eve of Rosh Hashanah, in the year 2100 — that anymore than a small remnant of our descendents — clinging to an ever-dimming memory — will be gathered in a handful of surviving synagogues to usher in a New Year...

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