Keeping Jews Jewish
In “Keeping the next generation Jewish,” rabbis Lisa Grushcow and Daniel Korobkin overlook one demographic fact. The main supplier of people to the non-Orthodox movements are the formerly Orthodox. The larger Orthodox birth rate have always supplied more Jews to the non-Orthodox movements than those lost to assimilation.
All Jewish denominations have their roles within the Jewish People in preventing assimilation loss. Without non-Orthodox movements, there would be a far greater loss.
I feel compelled to respond to Rabbi Lisa Grushcow who opines “It is possible to take Judaism seriously without being within the context of Halachah.”
Judaism exists because the Hebrews were taken from Egyptian servitude to Mount Sinai and given the gift of Torah, a system of laws, morals and beliefs, and thereby became Jewish. The early fervour with which they embraced their new lives threatened to burn out Moses and led to the establishment of the Sanhedrin.
The totality of Torah and rabbinic law is Halachah, and adherence to these precepts defines us as Jews. Not all of us are observant, it’s true, but I do not understand how we can abandon the primary tenets of our religion and still be Jewish. Those who believe that it is possible are merely Jew-ish, and their grandchildren will be secular.
‘No one need suffer alone’
As a member of the Jewish community and a mental health advocate, I was pleased to be present at this important event, but also simultaneously dismayed (“Panel on depression and suicide ‘strikes a chord’”).
While society is working hard to address stigma associated with mental illness, it saddens me that the catalyst for this event was suicides in the Jewish community. Given that one in five Canadians are affected by mental illness, chances are that we, or someone close to us, are suffering. However, no one need suffer alone and in silence.
I hope that this event will open up a plethora of conversations, formal and informal, large and small, with the hopes that we can build a community of awareness, understanding and hope.
Equity issues are on the table
I read the letter from people concerned with Jewish social justice (“Rekindling the light of Jewish social justice”), many of whom I know and admire, with some consternation.
They were implying that the organized Jewish community is not adequately involved in social justice issues. They failed to recognize the vital work undertaken by our federations, which raise funds for social justice work undertaken by professional agencies within the community. The writers also omitted the important work of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy arm of the federations. CIJA advocates to government at all levels on issues such as affordable housing, food security, services for people marginalized by their emotional, intellectual or physical challenges, protections for those targeted for hate (including the transgendered community), and poverty reduction policies.
While social justice work is usually not highly visible, it is vital for the general well-being of the community. I think that the federations and CIJA would welcome the volunteer participation of these thoughtful social justice advocates.