Daisy Bond here again!
Because I am Jewish, much of my writing, this post included, is targeted at Jews. I just want to say at the outset that I care about this because it is mine, not because I think it’s somehow superior. I’m very strongly in favor of other folks doing this kind of thing for their own groups, and I don’t mean to disrespect the non-Jewish Feministe readership in any way. I write about what I know — anything else would be presumptuous at best, and probably much worse than that. With that said…
I recently started a conversation on my blog about the future of Judaism, centered on the question, “What do you want Judaism to be?” As I’ve begun to close in on adulthood, I’ve become aware of my personal responsibility to ensure that Judaism survives, of the obligation and the privilege to decide for myself what that means and what it will look like. Jewish religion and culture have been evolving and adapting for thousands of years — I firmly believe that young Jews today are both entitled and obliged to reinterpret Judaism and Jewishness for ourselves, in a way that respects and weighs seriously the values and practices of our forebears without being shackled to them or suffocated by them. I consider this to be a fascinating, joyful and deeply fulfilling task, and also an urgent one: if we don’t do it, Judaism (the religion, the culture, the way of life) will die, and the Jews will die as a people.
With all of this in mind, I posed a series of questions to try to collaborate with Jews of my generation (broadly defined) to keep Judaism vital, relevant, and ours. To my delight, people offered a wealth of thoughtful and fascinating responses, in the comments on my post and at their own blogs. If you’re interested in this issue, I strongly encourage you to read everyone’s responses.
Because this platform affords me an entirely different and much larger audience, I’m going to post my original questions again here to see what Feministe readers have to say. I have many more thoughts in this vein, but I think this is the right place to begin in this new venue.
As I said in my first post, I especially want to talk to Diaspora Jews of my generation who, like me, are concerned with this task, but all responses are welcome. I would also very much like to hear from those Jews who are most at risk of being left out of the conversation: queer folks, Jews of color, Jews from “intermarried” families and those with only one Jewish parent, those who are themselves married to or in a relationship with a non-Jewish person, those who grew up secular or just not very observant, those who didn’t get a traditional Jewish education (Hebrew school, bar/bat mitzvah, etc). I want to hear from you! And I want you to know that Judaism is yours, that your have every right to it, that your voice and your concerns and are important and relevant and should (must!) be part of this discussion.
I deliberately use the phrase “Judaism and Jewish culture” to emphasize that this task is both cultural and religious, and because I very much want atheist, agnostic and secular voices in this discussion. Please feel free to answer as many or as few of the questions as you like, to share other thoughts or feelings, to pose entirely new questions, etc.
Without further ado:
- What do you like about Judaism and Jewish culture? What do you dislike?
- Why are Judaism and Jewish culture important? Why is it important to preserve them?
- What is your relationship with Judaism as a religion? Do you feel connected to Judaism? To a temple community, to a minyan, to a study group? If not, would you like to be?
- Are you affiliated with any of the movements? Which one, and why? If not, why not? What do you like and/or dislike about it?
- How observant are you? How important is observance to you? How observant should others be? Are some kinds of observance more important than others?
- What practices or ideas are most central to your Jewish identity? (i.e. eating bagels, loving books, celebrating the High Holidays, not celebrating Christian holidays, keeping kosher, fighting for justice, etc.)
- Ideally, what will Judaism and Jewish culture look like in 10 years? In 25 years? In 100 years?
- What are most critical issues for the Jewish community to address right now? Israel, intermarriage, declining synagogue attendance, something else entirely?
- What are the key qualities for Judaism/Jewish culture to embody or functions for it to perform?
My own answer to the last question, briefly: I want Judaism to be a living, adaptable source of love, sustenance, guidance and justice. I want Jewish communities to be passionate, welcoming, and deeply committed Judaism as the community interprets it, and I want there to be a lot of room for interpretation.
What do you want Judaism to be?
I respectfully request that non-Jews not participate in this thread, because I’d like to create a space for focused, intra-communal discussion. [Update! Wording changed at the suggestion of FashionablyEvil and others in the comments, in order to avoid excluding participating members of our community and/or shaming people for not being Jewish enough.] I respectfully request that this thread be restricted to the Jewish community, broadly defined, because I’d like to create a space for focused, intra-communal discussion. As I said above, I’m focused on Jews because I’m Jewish; I’m 100% in favor of others doing this kind of thing for whatever groups they belong to.)