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Love of Judaism

04/08/2016 09:27:46 PM


Saturday, April 9th, 2016

I am grateful for the Jewish professionals and the institutions they represented for helping me to create the relationship with Judaism that I cherish today. The synagogues, the Jewish summer camps I was privileged to attend (Golden Slipper and Camp Arthur Reeta), the USY youth groups that taught me about what strong friendships were made of, Temple Hillel and Gratz College all contributed to my strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. I learned to love my being Jewish through my relationships with talented, dedicated and caring individuals who influenced me along the way.
My Jewish identity was primarily shaped though my relationships with family, friends, Jewish texts, synagogue life, Israel and the Northeast Philadelphia Jewish community. It is because of the people who embodied these various institutions that I became a passionate and fully engaged Jew. My everyday life reinforced what I later learned in Rabbinical school. Judaism is so much more than religion. It is a people, a community, a culture, a language, a history, a land, a civilization, as well as a path. A path to shape a life of meaning and purpose, belonging and blessing.
When I reflect on what was the most impactful Jewish experiences, I realize how truly important the care that was shown to me by the teachers, counselors, professors, Rabbis and other Jewish leaders was. I not only felt welcomed, but also valued, respected and that MY story and experience mattered.
I have spent my professional career participating with and working for the Jewish community of the Delaware Valley. I have made a commitment to incorporate the kindness and special care of relationships that these Jewish professional modeled to me. In my life’s journey, I have sadly met many individuals and Jewish families who have not had the blessings of these types of relationships. At this stage in my career, I am meeting many people who belong to what has become known as “the None(s),” which happens to be the fastest growing segment of the Jewish community. The None(s) report they have no Jewish connections, they belong to no Jewish community and feel no loyalty to any organization. In a contemporary Jewish world, which offers many creative and meaningful experiences through synagogue affiliation, camping, JCCs, and Israel programming, there are still those who choose the sidelines.
Of course, there are the effects of demographic and societal change, time constraints, as well as the ever rising cost of belonging to a synagogue. These factors all contribute to the shrinking numbers of Jewish individuals engaged in a relationship with Judaism and the Jewish People. This past week, in that Jewish Exponent, the front page featured an article about the slow demise of the Northeast Jewish Community. The synagogues that I knew so well as a young boy are all closed. Camp Arthur – Reeta is closed. The majority of institutions that breathed life into my Jewish soul are gone.
While there are signs the Jewish community is vanishing in certain areas of the country, there is also strong evidence that the Jewish people are adapting and responding to the current challenges. For example, birthright was created to provide dynamic and meaningful relationships between Jewish millennials and Israel. People seeking information about living a Jewish life can surf the net and find hundreds of websites containing Jewish content. ( is one of the most visited Jewish content website in the world). You can watch live streaming of Shabbat services. Today with the computer or a smart phone, anyone can participate in online forums, discussion groups and communities of practice.
But what if you really require an in – the – flesh teacher, counselor or Rabbi? What is what you really need is a religious leader with whom you could share a cup of coffee, shake a hand, lean on the shoulder or confide in? There are organizations like the one that I continue to grow, Beiteinu. Beiteinu seeks to provide a face-to-face, heart to heart approach to relate to members of the community. My goal is to develop an approach that focuses on how Jewish practice can be a path to meaning and purposeful living. How Jewish life-cycle and holiday rituals, prayer and Torah study can lead to self discovery, growth, and celebrating relationships. I am creating, re-evaluating, listening to feedback and recreating based on what I see and learn daily.
In the process bringing together a community of people who genuinely care about each other and who will be there for you and with you, I welcome the opportunity to engage with you in an open and honest dialogue. I would love to hear from you. I would like to know and understand how you derive your understanding of the significance of life and your purpose for living. What gives you inspiration? What provides you with a feeling of deep satisfaction and gratitude? Do you see Judaism and your Jewish identity as a burden or a blessing? As a hassle or privilege?
What is your story? I welcome you to share in with me in whatever means is most comfortable for you. I would love to hear it through cyberspace, telephone or over a cup of coffee.
Let’s talk!
Tue, 23 April 2024