Judaism is many things to many Jews. There are as many “Judasims” as there are Jews. There are Renewal and Orthodox Jews, Conservative and Reform, Reconstructionist and Humanist; Working class Jews and upper middle class Jews; White Jews and African American Jews; Hispanic Jews and Arab Jews.
For decades the organizing idea of the Jewish community was unquestioning support for the State of Israel. Every synagogue of whatever denomination, social class or geographical area was marked by its “We Stand with Israel” banner. Even atheist rabbis who did not recite the Shema, declared their allegiance to the modern day secular Israel.
Increasingly, the banner of Israel does not command the same allegiance. A younger generation is pushing against that. Tens of thousands of Jews no longer feel comfortable in the Jewish community. Many tell me cannot pray in a synagogue that “Stands with Israel”. They will not bow down to the flag of the State of Israel that adorns the bimahs of almost all synagogues.
How can Jews who express their Jewishness by supporting Israel pray be with Jews who have moved away from that relationship. My role as rabbi is to create spaces for all Jews to perform Jewish rituals together, to pray together and hopefully to have meaningful community together. To that end, I founded the national organization the Open Hillel Rabbinical Council. We are 70 strong and growing. Our mission is to open Judaism to all Jews. No Jew should feel excluded from the Jewish community on account of their commitment to peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. No Jew should feel excluded from the community because of their conflicted feelings about Israel. No Jew should feel they are not good enough Jews because they love Israel one way or another.
We need to find ways to listen to each other. To that end, I have initiated and led dialog sessions both for rabbis and laypeople. We approach these conversations with an attitude of respect, humility and curiosity. Respect for the journey we are all on; Humility for the learning that I might glean from anybody, including those I disagree with; curiosity for the human story behind the opinions: how did you come to be connected to this narrative? what is your story?
We approach these conversations in a non-judgmental, non-anxious frame of mind. We hope and expect others to enter into these conversations with the same spirit.
When we do this, magic can — and does — happen. We can be connected despite — and through — our differences.