Zuckerberg and Jewish Identity

One of the topics that preoccupied me as a new Ba’al Teshuva (newly religious) young man back in the 1980’s and early 90’s was the extent to which the theology of Reform Judaism offered absolutely no rationale, no basis for a religious imperative to adhere to Jewish law, or, for that matter, a uniquely Jewish lifestyle.

Eugene Borowitz, one of the premiere thinkers of Reform in the late 20th century, wrote extensively on this topic.  The Wikipedia article on Borowitz explains:

His work has concerned itself with the dilemma of the postmodern Jew: committed to individual autonomy, but nevertheless involved with God, Torah, and Israel.

Now, how exactly “individual autonomy”, read: the lack of a Divine imperative to adhere to mitzvot, was to be synthesized with the idea of being “involved with God, Torah and Israel” was anybody’s guess.  I read this man’s books and essays over and over again, and could not (for the life of me!) figure out how he ever meaningfully reconciled the contradiction.

Since the early 90’s, I have moved on; for the last two decades, I have been primarily interested in disseminating what I feel is the authentic Torah tradition – instead of engaging in analysis of Jewish movements like Reform. But today, one of my colleagues in the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Doniel Kramer provided a link to an eye-opening article in the Jewish Daily Forward.  The piece, entitled, “Losing Zuckerberg” is written by Reform rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan, and it’s a VERY worthwhile read.  Here’s an excerpt:

We failed Zuckerberg and will continue to fail young people like him because the pluralistic theologies of Reform Judaism articulated since the 1960s make it difficult to grasp what we Reform Jews believe on any given issue. Our faith is too amorphous. Math and science nerds, in particular, may be the type most likely to bolt. This is ironic because one of the raisons d’être of Reform Judaism was to create an approach to Judaism that would be scholarly and scientific. But we have lost our way, ignoring scholarship in favor of any type of “spirituality,” no matter how vacuous.

To read the entire article, click on:

http://forward.com/articles/157074/losing-zuckerberg/?p=all#ixzz1wmtDRDeM

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One comment

  1. I grew up a reform Jew in the oldest reform congregation west of the Mississippi, United Hebrew. Coming to the US ~1900 my grandparents were ardent Zionists, but publicly didn’t display their judaism. My father was in retail and away shabbos. My mother had hands full with 5 children. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep shabbos and the entirety of my Jewish education came from ‘sunday school’. I am a bar mitzvah and have always had a strong faith in Hashem, but no idea what Judaism was really about until my mid-30’s, when I began self-studying because I had a strong desire to learn, know and understand more about my own culture, heritage. For 3 years I’ve affiliated in Kansas City with BIAV, an orthodox shul and had the honor, privelidge to study for part of that time with Rav Ron and the KC Kollel, which I still do even though he has moved away. The Kollel has been wonderful and my studies continue – parsha, Talmud, Hebrew, chaggim, etc. Hashem has blessed me with a wonderful path and I am so glad I’ve chosen to follow in HIS footsteps to grow even closer to HIM. Thank you, Hashem, Rav Ron, the KC Kollel, BIAV and all who have made my journey so meaningful! Todah! Scot Overland Park, KS

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