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[personal profile] indecisionwins
So I did end up going to KI for services today. They were OK, and I can see that Rabbi Sussman is probably more intellectual than most Reform Rabbis... But I saw that there are still significant things that annoy me about Reform Judaism. For one, the whole idea of the suburban, upper middle class Jewish ideal, which is so obvious in a Reform community. I guess it's ingrained in me, too, but...I guess I've learned to be aware of it, at least, rather than just accepting it as good... Well, I guess that comes from Swarthmore, doesn't it? I also really realized something else on the comparison between Reform and Reconstructionist Judiasm. I think Reform really does feel like it's your responsibility to be Jewish, it's your responsibility to contribute to and be a part of the Jewish community, it's your responsibility to raise kids Jewish, and so on. So Reform make that responsibility as easy as possible, but...there's still the expectation that you don't necessarily WANT to do it. Or if you do, it's because you want to contribute to the community, or you feel that it's your duty from God. But the idea of wanting to do it for yourself, because you think Jewish traditions themselves are valuable and interesting, and that they're actually meaningful... I don't think Reform has as much room for that. I may be wrong on this, and Reform synagogues do talk about community a lot, but I still feel like there's less actually wanting to be a part of the community, and more getting brownie points for being a "good member" of the community. Well, I don't know maybe that is just my experience, but... I'm pretty sure Reconstructionism has a stronger focus on actually making people WANT to be Jewish, and on showing why the traditions themselves should be meaningful and important. Well, hmm, I was starting to think that that meant Recon is more focused on Jewish history (and culture) where Reform is focused on community, but maybe that doesn't exactly work, since Reconstructionist does really try to build a sense of community... But...oh, actually one thing I was thinking of at services, Reform does a lot of things for APPEARANCES. That's what really annoys me about it (and what really annoys me about that suburban, upper middle class Jewish ideal, really). That was why I liked Edward Parrish so much--because he blasted Magill for wanting to do things just for APPEARANCES. Parrish, on the other hand, would never do something just for appearances--if he did something, he wanted it to be really meaningful. I think Reconstructionist really tries to give things a deeper meaning, like Parrish would have, where Reform Judaism figures that nobody really cares, they just want to get on with their lives, so you might as well try to look good...

On a separate note, I was also somewhat annoyed with the sermon, which I had really been looking forward to. Well, I guess hearing Rabbi Sussman give a sermon was my main reason for going there, to hear what an intellectual Reform perspective would be like... He was talking about the Israeli pullout from Gaza, and how great it was, and how Israel handled it so well. And actually, even though I haven't followed that all that closely, I really agree with the decision; I think it's good for Israel's own interests, and it's also really good to at least try to let the Palestinians have some freedom. But he was only talking about how great Israel was, and how Jews HAVE to support Israel, and giving the entirely one-sided perspective that the mainstream Jewish community has. I mean, I AM relatively pro-Israel, and I definitely think Israel's existence is a good thing for Jews. And I really believe something that I mentioned last night, that people in my grandparent's generation couldn't dream of criticizing Israel, because they were alive when it was still a dream, and then they saw it actually created, so it's still something really special to them. Where people in our generation take Israel for granted, and we can be more critical of things Israel has done, because, well, Israel HAS done some bad things, and Jews SHOULDN'T be expected to just blindly support Israel just because it's the Jewish state. I was actually a little shocked at one part of what Rabbi Sussman said, that KI especially has to be sure to show its support for Israel in the wider Jewish community, to erase the stigma on the congregation from 60 years ago (when, I'm guessing, KI must have come out publicly against the state of Israel...) I guess I didn't realize that support of Israel was so expected in the Jewish community (or at least in the Reform community) that there actually could be that strong of a stigma for not giving Israel full support.

I should mention that in general, I thought the sermon was in general articulate, and he did go into some intellectual depth on why Israel's decision was a good one, which was interesting.... But, wow, I had forgotten how being pro-Israel is so strongly dogmatic, at least in the Reform Jewish community...

But I don't regret that I went there, I don't think, because it was interesting to go somewhere different, and like I said, even though Beth Israel's services are OK, and I like Reconstructionism, Beth Israel's services aren't perfect for me either... I do wish I could go to Reconstructionist services for Yom Kippur instead of my family's Reform temple in St. Louis, but ah well... It will be nice to actually go with my family for Yom Kippur, though, I think...

Oh, and I should also add, L'shanah Tovah
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Michael

November 2010

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