30 November 2009

Is a Picture Hipper than 1,000 Words?

Back to the Forward (really the in-print gathering place for the current Jewish zeitgeist) - their edgy cartoonist Eli Valley skewers Jewish leadership and self-pretension every week. Quite honestly, I often think he goes too far and (many) others accuse him of self-hatred. However this week's strip asks the ironic question, "What if Kafka's contemporaries conceived of the ironic, post-denominational Judaism of Heeb?"

A Reform Ba'al Teshuvah?

I call your attention to an article in the current Forward by Jacob Neusner. In it, he makes the case for his return to the Reform movement, after an adult lifetime as a Conservative Jew. His reasoning is interesting, and the comments after do a pretty good job of laying out where American Jews are at this moment early in the 21st century.

Neusner divides Jewish formal affiliation into two camps: "self-segregationist" and "integrationist". Acknowledging that there are aspects of each in all the movements, he aligns himself with the integrationists. He calls for Reform Judaism to return to the spirit of our 1885 Pittsburgh Platform in three ways:

These three commitments of Reform Judaism — reason and criticism, the secular dimension of the culture and the autonomy of the individual — secure the freedom of modern Jews. And they amount to a Judaism that has profound support in our tradition.

In the end, Neusner states that if Reform Judaism did not exist, we, as American integrationist Jews would be forced to invent it.

Enjoy the article, see if it resonates with you, and let me know what you think.