A few months ago, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, spoke at University Synagogue. She proudly mentioned many of the exciting innovations that our movement has created in the past – the first Bat Mitzvah ceremony in 1922, havurot, women rabbis, LGBT equality, inclusivity for intermarried couples and so much more. She described how our movement has influenced Reform and Conservative Judaism, as well, and how those movements often want Reconstructionist Judaism to experiment with new ideas first in order to test the waters for them.
Yes, we have a lot of which to be proud, but we also have an obligation to the future – our own children and grandchildren, and also those of everyone else. We are the parents and bubbes and zaydes of Judaism’s future. We are the ancestors who, one day, will be remembered for all that we’ve done to sustain Judaism, and, even more, to improve it.
Too many Jews, especially traditional ones, are overly focused on the Jewish past. We are, of course, grateful for our “yerusha,” all that we’ve inherited from “days of old,” but we also need to ask ourselves how we can make Judaism better, truer, more honest, more open and more inclusive. A religion that only gives comfort and not challenge is deficient. A service that’s “same old” all the time dulls the hearts and bores the mind. Judaism needs to not only be about expectations and dependability, but also surprise, breaking set and awakening conscience and consciousness.
That’s a tall order, but that’s what Reconstructionism and University Synagogue are dedicated to offering to the Jewish present and future.
Autonomy, humanism, facing reality and striving for truth are our touchstones. We want to pour new wine into old bottles and shatter sacred cows that no longer are true, relevant or creative. Traditional ideas about humanity and divinity matter to us, but we also want to subject them to reason and relevance. While absolute truth might be elusive, the search for truth is always a mitzvah, a privilege and a simcha.
The future of Reconstructionism is University Synagogue and each Reconstructionist congregation. It’s up to each of us to give University Synagogue the opportunity to realize its potential to transform Jewish life and to give the diverse community of contemporary Jews and their families a home of which to be proud. It’s up to us to bring people in, to talk University Synagogue up, and to invite people to services, classes and events. Most people have no idea how different our message is, how inclusive our boundaries are, and how welcoming to everyone we can be. Too many people hesitate to join a synagogue because they are “atheists,” “agnostics,” “intermarried,” “LGBT,” “unable to read Hebrew,” “unlearned in Judaism,” “frustrated by bad Hebrew schools and boring synagogues in their past” and so much more. So many reasons, so many fears, so much pain – but there’s nothing to worry about here at University Synagogue. And it’s up to us to get that message out, loud and clear!
We’re in the middle of summer and so much is going on – Introduction To Reconstructionism Nights, Shabbat dinners and services (including at the beach), High Holiday planning and welcome back events – we never slow down. Share your life with us. We are here for you. Step forward and volunteer or sit back and enjoy, offer suggestions and expertise, and help shape our future. Visit often, laugh, learn, kvell and question. Enjoy the future of Judaism, while shaping it. The best is yet to be, and it’s up to us.