It’s called Bein Adam laMakom: Jews at Prayer and the Places they Pray. It’s about Jews. And the places they pray. Hence the name. Check it out here and submit your photos!
Fifty years ago and earlier, these movements could operate with what I will call subtractive Judaism. They could take the existing set of traditional beliefs and decide what practices to relax, modify, or eliminate. For example, the Reform movement in the 19th century could switch from Hebrew to English (or German) in prayerbooks. The Conservative movement in the 1950s could liberalize some of the stringencies of shabbat and kashrut. But in both cases, they were starting with people who observed, or at least were familiar with, the traditional way of doing things.
That is no longer true. A substantial percentage of people in Conservative and Reform synagogues simply do not have any substantial knowledge of Judaism. They have not read the Torah, have no idea what it says, have not read other traditional texts, do not daven, do not attend services, do not keep any level of kashrut, do not know about most rituals, and do not know about, let alone observe, most holidays other than Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, and Passover. The challenge facing the Conservative and Reform movement is not what tosubtract from traditional Jewish practices. It is what to add to no traditional Jewish practices.
I apologize for the radio silence of this blog of late. I don’t really know what’s going on with it. I’m still writing from time to time at Jewschool.com, which is a much better blog than this anyway. So go read Jewschool.
Anyway, I’m at home for a week or so before heading back up north. I went to services at my childhood synagogue last night and discovered an ironic little Talmudic footnote in Mishkan T’filah, which this blog has always devoted plenty of time to hating on.
On page 146, which features the Barchu and nothing else, the editors provide us with this footnote:
The Sh’ma is one of the prayers that on may recite in any language. -M. Sotah 7:1
The oddity of it is that the Shma is about the only thing we didn’t say in English. And I imagine that’s pretty normal in Reform synagogues these days. Half the Amidah, Maariv Aravim, etc. all in English. But the Sh’ma, which it’s apparently permissible to say in the vernacular, God forbid we should say that in anything other than Hebrew.
Who knows. Shabat shalom. Selah.
David A.M. Wilensky, Proprietor
David A.M. Wilensky is a writer, editor and so-called "Millennial" with experience in journalism and Jewish communal service. His monthly column appears in the New Jersey Jewish Standard.
The former Editor in Chief of New Voices Magazine, David recently left a position at the Jewish Outreach Institute, and is looking for a full-time position where he can focus on writing, editing or both. Looking for more?
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