To quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
“The [important] question is not ‘Were your grandparent’s Jewish?’, but ‘Will your grandchildren be Jewish?‘”
“The challenge of our time is to go out to Jews with a Judaism that relates to the world – their world – with intellectual integrity, ethical passion and spiritual power, a Judaism neither intimidated by the world not dismissive of it, a Judaism fully expressive of the broad horizons and high ideals of our heritage.“
“Young Jews resonate to this message. They want to contribute to the wider society and to humanity as a whole. They are not inspired by a Judaism that speaks constantly of antisemitism, the Holocaust, the isolation of Israel and the politics of fear.“
These extracts in this powerful essay resonate very strongly.
Yesterday when I collected my child from the rock climbing camp she has been attending this week. I noticed she had a pile of candy and I could tell right away that some of it wasn’t kosher. So I asked her, “did you check if the candy is kosher?” A camp counsellor who was with us immediately said, “Oh I didn’t know that R. was kosher, we would have made sure to only get kosher candy if we would have known”.
I was struck by the thoughtfulness of this young person and then I was also surprised when I realized myself that maybe the reason I hadn’t even thought about this was that I am so used to living under the radar, not being proud and out about being Jewish and dealing with the complications of being kosher, defensively explaining to people that I’m not exactly vegetarian. My daughter is well supplied with food from home and it didn’t occur to me to draw attention to the fact that she is Jewish – it’s a regular camp and she is there as a regular camper.
Rabbi Sacks further writes “I discovered that non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism. Non-Jews are embarrassed by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism“.
“Jews are at the forefront of almost every endeavour today. How transformative it would be if they did so as Jews, ambassadors of the Divine presence, living Jewish lives, energised by Jewish texts, sustained by Jewish prayers, driven to share our legacy of hope.“
I feel galvanized to change my assimilationist attitude. I want to fully be part of this world as I want my children to fully engage. But I hope that they will have the knowledge to do so as committed practicing Jews, as Rabbi Sacks puts it “a Judaism that speaks in the language of prophetic ideals, not that of politics and power, that relates to them with non-judgmental love; that values their contributions to the Jewish world; that lifts them instead of putting them down“. I hope I can learn to be a better model of this for my children, not assimilationist or apologetic but confidently incorporating Jewish values as we engage with the world.
Read the complete essay from Rabbi Sacks at this link.