Friday, March 11, 2016

Who is like Your people Israel!

One of the things that is undeniable  about living in Israel is the pride most Jews there have in their Judaism.

This is not to say that there are no problems there. There are. Big ones. The polarization between different factions could hardly be any greater.  A polarization that extends to even observant Jews among themselves. I see it all the time when I visit. And I see it here on this blog too.

But the positive side of living in Israel is feeling the pride of  being a Jew among Jews. This cannot be denied. Unlike secular American Jews who are quickly abandoning any semblance of their Judaism seeing it as a nuisance at best, secular Israelis embrace their Judaism. And although most of them are not fully observant by Orthodox standards, they still believe in God and understand the importance of doing Mitzvos - even if they don't do many of them. They seem to acknowledge that this is definitive of Judaism. And embrace a culture based on it.

Just to point out one example of this. Everyone in Israel knows when it is Sukkos… and  knows what that is.  No matter how removed from it they are. Every radio channel no matter how secular wishes its citizens a Chag Sameach (happy holiday) during the entire 8 day  festival. Every bottle of Coke says Chag Sameach on it around that time. There are no pictures of Santa Claus on them ever. The culture is entirely Jewish albeit it with a Middle Eastern flavor.

This is something the Conservative and Reform movements realize about Israelis and want to capitalize on. They rightly think that what they could not accomplish in the assimilaitionist culture of America has already been done for them in Israel. They believe that reaching out to secular Jews like this this will give them an edge in propelling their denominations into the future. They can say to these proud Jews that are secular that their mostly non observant lifestyles fits well into the Conservative or Reform framework. Once signed up as a Conservative or Reform Jew, they will not have to worry about them abandoning Judaism entirely – as  is the case with their secular counterparts in America.

But their movement adds nothing to the secular Israeli. Most of them are who they are without having a Conservative or Reform identity to go along with it. What do these heterodox rabbis think they can add to an Israeli’s sense of Jewish identity that they don’t already have? But I digress.

The point is that it is inspiring to see a group of apparently non observant singers at a secular concert in Israel singing about God and Mitzvos… with an enthusiastic crowd joining in as in a recent video I saw!

The Orthodox world (especially Charedim) in Israel should take note. Israelis are far more connected to God and Judaism than we give them credit for. They love God and they love expressing it in song. If only the observant community would see this and capitalize on it. We should be reaching out to them a lot more instead of constantly accusing them of being anti religious. 

The Charedi world thinks secular Jews in Israel hate them. But aside from a small minority of them, I don't think that is true at all. What Charedim are instead witnessing is a reaction many secular Israelis have to having religion shoved down their collective throats. This should not be mistaken for hating religion since - as the video below illustrates - the opposite is true.

If I were a rabbinic leader in that world, I would urge all of us to re-think the flaming rhetoric against them one often hears in their circles. They should stop doing things like trying to close down a  main artery in Jerusalem on Shabbos because it disturbs the sanctity of the religious neighborhood it passes through. Let them look at this video and see the potential that is there.

Instead of turning them away thinking that it preserves their own holiness, they ought to take a page from the Lubavitch. You don’t have to make every secular Jew a Charedi in order to accept him. You don’t even have to make him fully observant.

Do what Lubavitch does. Love them all as Jews and set an example for them to follow. These people want to be Jewish. Many of them don’t know how. And many simply don’t want to change their lifestyles. That’s fine. Don’t preach. Just practice loving kindness and be a role model of acceptance to them. That can do wonders. Don’t think so? Just ask any Lubavicther Shaliach. He will show you just how successful this approach can be. 


Update The entertainer featured in a video clip is suspected of inappropriate behavior with underage girls which is not the image I was going for in this post. I have therefore removed his image and a video of his performance. But the message of this post remains the same.