How many times have your kids or grandkids asked “Why are we Jewish?” How many times did you ask it of your parents? This question probably sounds familiar to most Jewish households. Maybe we still ask it cynically of ourselves during the Yom Kippur fast, or when we are craving challah during Passover.
We know that one-fifth of Jews in the U.S. describe themselves as having no religion, according to the 2013 Pew Research survey. How can those attitudes be changed? We need to develop personal, value-based answers to the threshold questions: Why be Jewish? Why is it important to “be” Jewish, and to “do” Jewish? Why is it important to raise Jewish kids and grandkids?
We need to articulate a concise, compelling and comprehensive value proposition about preserving and building a Judaism for the 21st century. The value proposition needs to be affirmative and positive. So, let’s discuss what’s worth preserving–be it the religion, the culture, the food, the history, the spirituality, the social justice ethic, etc.
We need to answer the question of how being Jewish will add value to a person’s life. What are we trying to accomplish with religious practice, observance and spiritual practice? How will being Jewish help a person answer life’s questions, issues and challenges? Until recently, we have simply taken this for granted.
Stated another way: What will be lost, abandoned and forgotten if we don’t promote strong, positive, values-based messages regarding the importance of Jewish knowledge, wisdom, values and spirituality to the next generations?
We need to ask, “What does it mean to be Jewish or a member of any tribe in the 21st century?” The Tribe. What are the essential qualities or values to be “Jewish?”
So, based upon your values, let’s start by answering the following questions:
- Why is it important for you to “be” Jewish and “do” Jewish?
- Complete the following sentences: “You should be Jewish because _____.” And “I want you to raise Jewish kids because _____.”
- Develop Your Own Top 10 List of Reasons to be and do Jewish.
If we can’t come up with cogent answers to these questions, how can we expect our children and grandchildren to “buy-in” to our concerns and create their own Jewish journeys? This is especially important given the reality of intermarriage in the American Jewish community. What messages do we want to send to the non-Jewish partner regarding the importance of having a Jewish family and raising children with a strong sense of their Jewishness?
Let us know what you think about these questions. Answer them in the comment section below.