What Is One Thing Jews Need to Stop Doing?
In mid-October, The Forward's "Rabbis Roundtable" series posed the following question to 25 rabbis: "What's the biggest threat facing the Jewish people today?" and we told you how the three Reform-affiliated rabbis on the list responded. This week, the series asks a question no less complex, presenting to 25 rabbis the question "What is one thing Jews need to stop doing?"
Four Reform-affiliated rabbis responded, alongside rabbis of every other Jewish denomination from Humanistic to Orthodox. So how did Reform rabbis answer this difficult question? Rabbi Rachel Timoner of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, NY, kept her response succint but powerful: "Supporting racism." Amen to that. (Learn more about how you can join the Reform Jewish community's ongoing campaign for racial justice.)
Others went further in depth with their responses, including Rabbi Michael P. Sternfield of Temple Beth El in Bradenton, FL, who addressed the changing landscape of American Jewish life:
"We must stop pretending that Jewish life in the U.S. is pretty much the same as it has been, and all that is needed are new methods and gimmicks to attract the next generation to synagogues and Jewish institutions. There has been a sea change in the attitudes of young Jews who do not feel the desire or the obligation to join or participate. The Shoah and the State of Israel are no longer compelling factors. The evidence is abundant, but institutional Judaism has not demonstrated the willingness to confront what is undeniable. There is not much time left: one generation at the most."
Rabbi Denise Eger, former president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, focused on in-fighting within the Jewish community:
"Jews should stop picking on each other. We have to love each other more, even in our differences. Enough with 'My Judaism is better than your Judaism.' Let’s just accept one another and, in doing so, we will strengthen our community. When we fight amongst ourselves, it frays our souls and divides us from within. I believe we can be respectful and different in how we practice and observe — or for secular Jews, not observe — but we must stop being unkind and hurtful to each other. And most importantly, learn to love one another."
Answering similarly was Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, a Renewal rabbi serving Reform synagogue Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA. Rabbi Barenblat, author of popular Jewish blog Velveteen Rabbi, responded:
"Jews should end our internal triumphalism, the denominational attitude that says any one branch of Judaism is doing it 'right' and therefore everyone else is doing it 'wrong.' That’s as unhelpful as inter-religious triumphalism. I’d love to see us instead celebrating the diversities inherent in the spectrum of k'lal Yisrael, the whole Jewish community. Some of my favorite Jewish experiences have come from davening and learning with rabbis of other denominations, and being able to cherish my own flavor of Judaism even as I also open myself to appreciating what’s sweet about theirs."
Visit The Forward to read the other rabbis' answers, and tell us: How would you answer the question?