What does it mean to be Jewish in the 21st century?

We’ve had a few years to think about this and now we have a situation for which very few if any of us planned. It’s been exciting and inspiring to see the efforts and amazing strides communities have made to understand what this means. Adapting to our changing culture. But at no point did we think about the roll a global pandemic would play in this conversation.

Nu, what has changed?

First, our awareness of the stark realities and fragility of our beloved institutions and community. However, we also see people taking it upon themselves to express their Jewish self in place of the traditional experience.

But the latter wasn’t new information. We’ve seen it in report after report for years. Now we’re paying attention.

The challenge with these reports and studies is that in an effort to categorize individuals into groups, or communities, we make the early mistake of assuming that they are able to be grouped. And that any group is static. In that my experience is the same as yours and his and hers and theirs etc. In reviewing these categories one can not simply say “I clearly belong here”, but instead reflect on a lifetime of experience with judaism and where, at any point, elements of connection fluidly flowed from category to category. This led to the development of The Wheel.

And this led to a new question, that is really hard to ask. What is Jewish community in an increasingly individualistic world?

For us to come together in community does not mean we have to agree, but it does mean we have to have an understanding in ourselves that allows us to share space with others. In an attempt to provide for the needs of community, we’ve narrowed the entry points and alienated entry points where our community members are actively participating.

To understand what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century, it is my proposal that we first need to determine what it means to be a Jew for ourselves, acknowledging that this is our belief alone, and that we always have something to learn.

The point of this idea is to spur questions and ideas. I am not too proud to think my thoughts are the wisest, and much prefer to be the student. I welcome further discussion and will continue this series with additional posts, so subscribe to get the updates!

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