GUEST VOICE: USY interdating change signals respect, inclusivity
- Квадрат Цезаря, - просияла Сьюзан.
Тут вступил агент Колиандер: - Как вы приказали, мы повсюду следовали за Халохотом. Велел ему сегодня не приходить.
These include recognizing the importance of dating within the Jewish community and treating each person with the recognition that they were created Betzelem Elokim in the image of God.
I thought the former language was a red line that clearly prohibited interfaith dating. The new language seems less definitive. For those who liked the old wording, a generous reading of the amendment would result in no practical change.
Interdating was and continues to be forbidden to those in certain leadership positions. Based on my understanding of the word choices, the intent of the authors and several conversations with USY leaders, a subtle practical shift has, in fact, taken place.
There was a time when a USY leader who interdated would immediately be expected to resign; however, in recent years the extent to which this happened is negligible, as the old language created a culture wherein the very few USY leaders who interdated simply hid their romantic relationships. The new language, it is hoped, will open up space for conversation. USY interdating change signals respect, inclusivity. These high schoolers are much more sensitive to the growing nature of religiously blended families and families in which one parent converted to Judaism.
They reasonably felt the need to devise expectations that welcomed active, committed young Jews into leadership positions even when one of their parents is not Jewish or was not Jewish at the time when their parents started dating. If anything, our synagogues could learn from these teenagers about how to create a welcoming community without surrendering values we hold dear.
USY is way ahead of the curve when it comes to what type of religious and ethical behaviour we expect of our leadership. I think that the impetus for the interest in this story is the renewed debate in North America about the future of Jewish life here. The Pew Report last October painted a challenging picture of what people view as important to Jewish identity.
In-marriage was down and intermarriage was up. I am among those who are not sanguine about our future. We have to articulate more clearly what Judaism is, why it is important and why people should marry and continue Jewish life. This weekend was the yahrzeit of my teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In one of his last public remarks, he spoke about the future: And our leadership is unable to respond, to guide, to illumine.
With Zion as evidence and inspiration, as witness and example, a renewal of our people should come about. Is inclusion an ultimate value? Or is it counterbalanced by behavioural expectations? Bridges are important, but there also have to be borders. For years, I have spoken about a three-part approach to interfaith dating and marriage. Second, we should encourage non-Jews in love with Jews to consider conversion to Judaism. We have a tradition of great spiritual depth and moral grandeur.
Often the Jew-by-choice motivates the Jewish partner and his or her family to grow. It has certainly brought more Jews of colour into our community, enriching us with their ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Finally, when there is no conversion, we should create welcoming spaces in our synagogues to encourage interfaith families to raise their children as Jews.
Even as we seek inclusion, there have to be standards. Conservative Judaism provides an historically authentic approach to belief, behaviour and belonging. We have a balanced understanding of how our received traditions engage and interact with the larger world around us. Our communities are often very engaged in Jewish social ethics, but less knowledgeable or observant of the specifically ritual elements of Jewish life.
More than the debate about dating, we have to ask ourselves what will build a Jewish future. I look at the young people who are involved in USY and other youth program as the future leaders of our community. My hope is that our organizations are able to inspire Jews to live committed Jewish lives. As Jewish leaders, we must be able to convey, not that Jews should be Jewish in order that there be more Jews, but that Jews should be Jewish because Judaism has something substantive to add to the lives of its adherents and the world at large.
Additionally, I want our organizations to reclaim the idea of mitzvah, not as a good deed, but as a sacred obligation. It is through the lived experience of commitment to community, to ritual and to God that one comes to see the power of Judaism.
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