By Rabbi Steve Blane | September 21, 2016
Jewish Universalism is not a finite concept. Yes, we have a mission and we have doctrines. At present, we have fourteen rabbis around the world who represent our ideas and principals. But we are not an island.
We do not stand before G-d or humankind and represent that we know G-d’s purpose for us nor that we are the group through which the divine source of everything can best minister to the needs of the Jewish and Interfaith Community.
We are much more significant than that.
You see we are open to change and to evolving to embrace the paradigm of modern Judaism. We do not fight it or struggle to “put the genie back in the bottle.” It is much more constructive, meaningful and productive to embrace change, support it and figure out how we can learn and grow from it.
I hear again and again with greater frequency as time passes from members of our community and from Rabbinical and Cantorial School candidates and their Rabbinic mentors that Jewish Universalism is the future of modern Judaism. The mainstream world might not quite accept that concept as of yet, but it doesn’t matter. To millennials, denominational distinctions have become irrelevant and in severe decline. Millennials choose to believe in what they will, and as testimony to that mainstream Jewish Seminary enrollment is way down while ours (www.JSLI.net) is way up. I need not comment at all on the decline of synagogue membership or attendance.
However, JU is in the right place at the right time to meet the challenges of the Jewish future. In JU we do not build a metaphorical fence around the Torah” in order to protect the commandments or mitzvot. Rather we scale the fence and enter into Torah itself and interpret it to make it relevant to all people- without fear, rancor or disrespect.
I was recently in conversation with an Evangelical Christian friend as we discussed our faiths. It was quite fascinating to engage in such discourse- I encourage all Jews to do so. He asked me why it simply was not easier to just “accept that Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of ancient prophesy.” I responded that, why not just accept that for Jews, it is not easier and it would simply not be Jewish. Short and to the point is as good as I can do on that question because Evangelicals can not accept a faith without Jesus. I believe that often respectful discourse is best obtained by moving on to the subject of weather as quickly as possible 🙂
We are not Unitarian Universalists- but Jewish Universalists. True to our Jewish history, faith and rituals while welcoming all people to join us in learning and participating in our worship.
In a world filled with anxiety and a growing lack of the ability to engage in civil discourse, we are a beacon of change, hope and continued relevance to the world at large and a Jewish community that struggles with adapting to the light speed changes of modernity.
G-d Bless you and Shana Tova 5777!