Haaretz.com has an interesting article entitled “Why liberal Judaism is in free fall” (www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/jerusalem-babylon-why-liberal-judaism-is-in-free-fall-1.344102)
The gist of the essay is that apathy is killing liberal Judaism. Maybe, but why? Most rabbis I talk with seem to think it is a cosmetic problem: more Hebrew, more hand-clapping and singing, a newer version of the siddur (prayer book), and the next thing you know Liberal Jews are as enthusiastic as the Satmar Hasidim. I doubt it.
Liberal Jews are like voters in an off year election: most of them don’t turn out (and by “them” I mean “us” and by “us” I mean me). The problem is that for liberal Jews it is always an off year election. Give them a reason to show up, however, and they might.
But maybe there is no reason. Maybe there is nothing (short of pogroms in their neighborhoods) that will bring liberal Jews to shul. If, as is true of most liberal Jews, you don’t believe that the Jews are God’s Chosen obligated to the 613 Commandments and central to the salvation of the planet and her peoples, it is hard to drag your butt to shul on Saturday to wade through hundreds of pages of mostly meaningless and often repetitive liturgy.
And yet Judaism and Jewish culture are hardly moribund. I attended a fabulous Havdallah service in St. Louis featuring the Hasidic-jazz fusion of my friend Rabbi James Goodman; the Jewish music scene in New York and LA is thriving; Jewish art, literature, and poetry are alive and well. Maybe it is just corporate religion that is on life-support.
Maybe we need to create events rather than communities. Maybe communities cannot be artificially erected and funded through dues. Maybe the old model of “If you build it (the synagogue) they will come (and pay off the mortgage) no longer works. Maybe Judaism has to happen differently. Maybe. I'm only asking questions here. And I know I'll hear from some shul-lovers who say everything is fine. Maybe it is.
I’d love to hear examples of where Judaism is working for you. Please share them in the comments section.