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September 29, 1989 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

FOCUS

Aspiring
To Be A Serious Jew

I

t is generally believed that
Reform, Conservative, and
Orthodox define the
greatest differences among
Jews.
This is often untrue, and it
is increasingly unconstruc-
tive.
Jewish life would be im-
measurably enriched if in-
stead of focusing on denomi-
national descriptions and
goals, Jews would focus on a
distinction that is simpler,
more accurate, and far more
constructive: serious and non-
serious Jews.
But far more important
than achieving accuracy, by
substituting serious for
denominational labels we
would achieve two seemingly
incompatible goals. Serious
makes more demands on
Jews, and at the same time it
reduces divisiveness among
Jews. As more and more Jews
would aspire to become ser-
ious Jews — as the term will
be defined — gratuitous rival-

66

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1989

ry and sinat khinam
(causeless hatred) in Jewish
life would decrease while
Jewish commitment would
increase.
This is not some abstract
theory. I have devoted most
of the past 20 years to bring-
ing Jews to Judaism, and this
nondenominational appeal to
Jewish seriousness has been
at the core of this effort.
Whenever I make the case for
Jewish commitment, I make
it clear at the outset that I
am uninterested in whether a
Jew becomes Reform, Con-
servative or Orthodox, or
even falls between denomina-
tional cracks. What is de-
manded of a Jew is that he or
she become a serious Jew.
This approach has been ex-
traordinarily effective.
On a personal note, this ap-
proach has enabled me to
become one of very few Jews
invited by Reform, Conserva-
tive, and Orthodox congrega-
tions to lecture on Judaism.

Beyond Reform,
Conservative and
Orthodox — one
must be committed
equally to God,
Torah and Israel.

DENNIS PRAGER

And it explains why the book
Rabbi Joseph Thlushkin and
I wrote, The Nine Questions
People Ask About Judaism,
is as widely used to teach
Judaism by Chabad Chasid-
im as by Reform temples.
When asked to become ser-
ious Jews rather than, or in
addition to, denominational
ones, Jews are more likely to
begin to take Judaism ser-
iously. lb° often it appears to
unaffiliated Jews that the
greatest interest of Reform,
Conservative, and Orthodox
Jews is Reform, Conservative
and Orthodox Judaism, not
Judaism. This is evident
when a previously secular
Jew begins to learn Hebrew
and pray regularly at Reform
services or begins to observe
Kashrut thanks to a Con-
servative congregation. And
it is evident when non-
Orthodox Jews do not cele-
brate when an unaffiliated.
Jew adopts Orthodox Juda-
ism.

The serious Jew meets four
criteria:
1. This Jew is committed to
each of Judaism's three com-
ponents: God, Torah, and
Israel.
2. This Jew attempts to im-
plement the higher ideals of
each of these components.
3. Whatever Jewish laws
this Jew does or does not
observe is the product of
struggle.
4. This Jew is constantly
growing in each of these
areas.

Commitment to God,
Torah, Israel
Judaism's three com-
ponents, God, Torah, and
Israel (God, law, and the
peoplehood) are so important
that together they may be
said to constitute Judaism's
trinity. I use the word trinity
precisely. A Jew's abandon-
ment of one or more of Juda-
ism's components is as
serious a renunciation of

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