Ten New Commandments…
Dear Fellow Jews,
I never thought I would be saying this, but I think we have become too tolerant. I love my intellectual, open-minded people very much, but sometimes, (well, often), our obsessive need to consider all sides of an issue is working against us. Not every option deserves real consideration. For years we have been bending over backwards trying to make Judaism fit every different taste and 51% of Jews in North America are leaving the fold. Going out in droves. It is clear that we need some absolutes. Non-negotiables. Time for some new Commandments. Here are some that will work:
1. Jewish Grandchildren. You want them, right? Then raise your children to be Jewish. Children do not decide religion. Parents do. Children need direction. No matter who you marry, decide ahead of time that the kids will be brought up as Jews. Identity is important. Wishy-washy will get you 51 percent joining church or just not considering themselves to be Jewish. If the thought of being invited to your grandchild’s baptism in 20 years troubles you, do something about it now.
2. Hebrew School. I didn’t like it. You didn’t like it. Our kids don’t either. Some creative people are thinking about, “better ways” to Jewishly educate our children. Until they find it, we should send our kids to Hebrew school. I know Hebrew School will conflict with soccer, fencing or other over-programming activities. But in the end, the values, history and character our children learn from becoming members of the Jewish community will mean a lot more than yet another travelling softball team. Someday children will respect you for towing the line on this one.
3. Circumcise. This is our covenant. It is not all that barbaric so just get over it.
4. Get to Israel! If I have to talk to another wealthy Jewish parent about how much her daughter enjoyed Birthright, I am going to vomit. A family who goes on Safari in Africa, takes yearly ski trips to Vail and jaunts to Rome, but has not brought their children to Israel should be embarrassed. Please don’t get huffy about this. I know all the Birthright arguments and I don’t care. Israel is not scary. What is scary is the thought of the Middle East without Israel, which will surely happen if we do not do a better job of supporting our Jewish State. Every Jewish family who can afford it should be taking trips to Israel. It is shameful that the Jewish community now has to pay the bill for doing what Jewish parents should be doing themselves.
5. End BORING Synagogue. I have attended and practically slept through so many Bar/Bat Mitzvah services wondering not why we are losing so many Jews, but why we are not losing more?! C’mon Rabbis! Truly, out of every synagogue in North America, would you choose to daven at yours if you were not the Rabbi? If not, then try to change it! Be creative, be humorous, be spiritual! Shake it up! I assume that many congregational Rabbis chose their careers because they felt a calling to be a spiritual leader and inspire others. Well then, please try harder. I know that there is an awful lot of pressure on you, but you chose to become a Rabbi, so please try to keep the flock in the fold. Did you hear about the Easter services in Georgia where they held a Give-A-Way? They were literally giving cars, bikes, and televisions to people just for coming to services?! I bet you rolled your eyes. I did too. Until I watched the service on You Tube. It was fun! Invigorating! Inspiring! I stopped rolling my eyes.
6. Give Philanthropy to Jewish Causes. There are millions of non-Jews giving to the Red Cross, Cancer research, Princeton University; they have it taken care of. Jews need to be very careful that much of their philanthropy is directed to Jewish causes. Somehow, this lesson that was clear to our parents’ generation is lost on ours. We are the ONLY ones who ill support our own. Jewish money needs to go to Jewish causes.
7. Jewish Camp. Jewish Camp may be THE savior of the Jewish people. I am not talking about camp with Jewish kids, I am talking about Jewish Camp where your children will get a dose of Judaism that they will cherish forever. Jewish Camp will light the spark inside your children that will make them love and identify with their cool Judaism in a way that we just can’t seem to teach at home.
8. Day School. My husband and I do not send our kids to Day School, but I hear it is pretty great and inspires a lifelong love of Judaism. Many people swear by it so I am making it a Commandment.
9. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Mitzvah projects, where the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child does a real community service project is a positive change that has taken place in the B’nai Mitzvah world in the past twenty years. Let’s make it even bigger. Many children, in lieu of gifts are asking guests to donate to their chosen Mitzvah project. What a life-long lesson! What a menschy thing to do!
10. Shabbat. Friday night is family Shabbat. Period. Will your teenagers sometimes hate you for ruining their lives as you make them miss Friday night dances, football games, and sleepovers? Yes. Deal with it. We have all heard the statistics on how family dinner makes for healthier families. Many of our non-Jewish friends are envious that we have a built in, “family night” that goes along with our religion. Take advantage. Full disclosure: We have a negotiated rule in our family: Our daughters can miss three Shabbats per school year and friends (Jewish or not) can sometimes come for Shabbat dinner.