2020s in Religion: Facing the challenge of more hate, rethinking Jewish identity – The Oakland Press

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Editors Note: This is part seven in a series of Religion News Service interviews with experts discussing what the new decade may bring in religion.

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin (Courtesy photo)

The Talmud says: Ever since the destruction of the Temple, prophecy has been given into the hands of children and fools. I am neither, but let me tell you what I see in the stars for world Jewry in the coming year. The picture is not pretty. This past year has seen the rapid acceleration of anti-Semitic incidents both in Europe and in the United States. The social contract, complete with an immune system that guarded against the excesses of hate, has vanished.

No, this is not Berlin, 1938. And yet, it is disturbing and disorienting. European Jews are accustomed to this; it has been part of their narrative for the past thousand years. For American Jews, this is something for which nothing in their history or experience has prepared them.

More disconcerting: With the exception of certain major cities, synagogue affiliation rates are dropping. Fewer young people are getting a quality Jewish education. With a shrinking sense of religious community less communal Velcro young Jews, and others, will be less prepared to meet the external challenges they will face.

But there is hope.

Synagogues might be shrinking, but alternative kinds of communities and structures are growing. The number of Jewish startups, and the energy within them, is admirable. The Jewish arts are experiencing a new vitality.

So, in 2020: There will be more hate. The election year will cause more of it to spew out of the body politic. Jews will need to figure out how to creatively face that challenge. It will not be easy, but my money is on the Jews.

Salkin writes the award-winning column Martini Judaism at RNS. He also serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla.

Rabbi Joshua Stanton (Courtesy CLAL)

Who is a Jew?

In the next decade, progressive denominations may succeed in promoting a more inclusive definition, both in the United States and Israel. In the United States, arobust new studyindicates that at least 12% to 15% of the American Jewish population are people of color. These American Jews have been underrepresented both in population studies and (far more importantly) in most communal institutions and places of leadership.

Major denominations and organizations are alreadyworking to ensure that all Jews feel at home and are treated as equal members of the Jewish people, and more will follow suit.

You can expect stronger relationships,allyship and coalitions with communities of color, so that Jews of color can proudly embrace all of their identities. American Jewish denominations would do well to listen to Jewish millennials and members of Generation Z, who are coming of age in record numbers before our eyes.

These rising generations require our willingness to see each person as a unique individual, rather than as part of a broader category or binary. The jury is out as to whether we will learn to do so.

In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinates monopoly over marriage and life-cycle events may end, breaking its power to tell hundreds of thousands of people that they are not really Jews at all.More than two-thirds of Israeliswant this change already.

Eight hundred thousand Israelis now identify as Reform or Conservative Jews, and they are less and less likely to allow fundamentalists who dominate niche areas of government to tell them what to do.

Prepare for a comeback by progressive Jewish movements in both countries, if we are able to listen to those who are chronically underserved and collaboratively create new opportunities for spiritual experience with them.

Stanton leads East End Temple in Manhattan. He is a senior fellow at the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

Next installment: The future of the religious right, digital religion, collective leadership

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2020s in Religion: Facing the challenge of more hate, rethinking Jewish identity - The Oakland Press

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