Identifying low-hanging mitzvot to increase observance

A fantastic post over at Three Jews, Four Opinions about increasing observance among Reform and Conservative Jews. The whole post is great, but it’s money quote, for me, is this:

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.

Now go read it.

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3 responses to “Identifying low-hanging mitzvot to increase observance

  1. Larry Kaufman

    Reading the full 3J4O post, and the comments, I find no mention of the implicit tension between the home and the synagogue, although there is recognition of the tension between Friday night and Saturday.

    Where the articulated goal might be for the synagogue to role-model appropriate Shabbat observance for the home, the actual outcome is substituting. If we have lit candles and said Kiddush in shul, why repeat? Are we going to rush through Shabbat dinner to get to the synagogue at 8 o’clock — or are we better off with the recent trend to 6:30 kab shab and sitting down to dinner at 8:30 — or should we be encouraging family Shabbat at home Friday night and come to services on Saturday morning. (Hah!)

    With all due respect to the Sukkah and the Seder, doing Jewish in the home has to be first and foremost about Shabbat. Maybe my former congregation had the right idea in its Classic Reform era — 20 minute kab shab at 5:45, primarily for those saying Kaddish, allowing for a hypothetical real Shabbat at home.

  2. No joke. A study showed that there are two ways to make a Jew: either light candles in the home as they’re growing up every week. Or, send them to Jewcamp.

  3. Очень познавательно. Спасибо.

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