How much will you pay to buy Judaism?

What am I taking about? Is Judaism for sale and I did not know it??

This past weekend, I went to a conference at the Palo Alto Jewish Community Center (JCC), titled “Z3.” The letter Z standing for the word “Zionism.” What was the “3?” Zack Bodner, the Executive Director of the Oshman Family JCC, explained it in a way that I had not heard before, and I liked it! He divided Zionism into three periods that I will explain super briefly: Herzl’s dream and work for the Jewish homeland is one period. The second period is the actual establishment and development of the State of Israel. And the third period is what we, all of us Jews outside of Israel and Israeli Jews, begin now.

Welcome to the “Z3” period. A remarkable time, a time where Jews in the Diaspora are comfortable and satisfied living outside of the Jewish homeland, and Israel is a successful country in its own right. And now what? What is the significance of us being one people?

The conference discussed at length the future connection between American and Israeli Jews. In some of the workshops, we discussed the price one has to pay—or invest (depending how you look at it)—to build a strong relationship between American Jewry and Israelis.

In my title, I asked, “How much will you pay to buy Judaism?” More importantly, and perhaps a better question is, how much effort are you willing to invest in your relationship to Israel and Israelis, and vice versa? We often talk about the concept that we are Am Israel, the people of Israel. All of us are part of Am Israel—people who are born into Judaism, and those who chose it. What does that mean? What does peoplehood actually mean?

As my book, Moments of the Heart, is being published—watch for the publicity on that—I was thinking about using the four-chamber concept I used in my book to explore this connection with and bridge between these two magnificent entities, American Jewry and Israeli Jews, all through the lens of Jewish wisdom. Here are the beginning thoughts that I will explore in my next few blogs. And, yes, this is one of those blogs where I welcome your thoughts (we can all learn from each other, right?)!

The first chamber in my book is “The relationship to self”—what does it mean in regard to the topic at hand? It means that each entity must be content with who they are and the choices they make for themselves. Each entity should ask themselves what they are doing to develop their own Jewish identity. Since Israelis cannot be Americans and Americans cannot be Israelis (unless they
move across the ocean), the common thread between them is Judaism and the Hebrew language.

Each of us should ask ourselves what are the ways in which we grow in our Jewish knowledge. I know, I know—some of you may say, “we want to focus more on social action,” and others may say, “we want to study Talmud more,” and yet others will say, “we want to learn what’s going on with current events.” I believe that there must be a foundation we all need for our basic education. The more our foundation is strong and solid, the higher our building can rise to become a skyscraper!

Each group creating for themselves a good name is the key to continued unity. Imagine if the two groups would always complain about and be disappointed by the other group—how long could this type of relationship continue? Not too long. I regard myself to be in the unique position of being an Israeli Jew as well as an American Jew. I have learned to bridge the two sides of myself, loving and respecting each aspect.

In my book, I have a section at the end of each entry with what I call “your personal Lev Moment.” So here it is for you—a bit modified, but nonetheless—your “homework” for reflecting and considering:

For American Jews:

  1. How important is your Judaism to you? How much does it influence your life?
  2. Can you identify any Biblical stories that made an impact on you and discuss them with some detail?
  3. Do you know how to read Hebrew? Can you speak it?
  4. Do you attend a synagogue? Are you familiar with some prayers? Can you pray?
  5. Are you familiar with Israeli music? Who is your favorite singer?
  6. Have you tasted Israeli foods? What do you like?
  7. Name at least five holidays you actually celebrate (there are more, but we’re starting easy J). Which holidays are meaningful to you? Why?
  8. What gives you joy when you think of Judaism?

For Israeli Jews:

  1. How important is your Judaism to you? How much does it influence your life?
  2. Can you identify any Biblical stories that made an impact on you and discuss them with some detail?
  3. Do you know how to read English? Can you speak it? Communication is a two-way street, so learn English if you feel the need!
  4. Do you attend a synagogue? Are you familiar with some prayers? Can you pray?
  5. Are you familiar with American music? Jewish American music? Which is your favorite? Grow in your own identity, but be respectful to the other side. They are making the effort, so you should too!
  6. What is the most meaningful holiday you celebrate? Name more than five holidays you go out of your way to celebrate.
  7. What gives you joy when you think of Judaism?

In the first entry in my book called “What’s in a Name,” I quoted midrash Tanchuma Vayakhel, where our rabbis taught, “There are three names by which a person is called: the name our parents call us, the name people call us, and the name we earn for ourselves. The name we make for ourselves is the best one of all.”

I bless and hope that each one of us, American Jews and Israeli Jews, will earn for themselves a name worthy of our past and inviting for our future.

To be continued…

PS

I am looking forward to teaching my eight-week class elucidating the concepts about my upcoming book, Moments of the Heart—what a pleasure it is for me to explore the concepts of the book with others,  at Congregation Neveh Shalom starting on January 8th.   It will be super-nourishing for your soul!

Attendance at all classes is not required!

Click here to register on-line or click here to email JoAnn or call the office at 503-246-8831.

And if it’s not the right time for you, I offer you several easy ways to connect with me to find similar nourishment—from my online classes, to my book, to studying with me!

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