Are we Jews an endangered species? We hear often about Jewish survival in light of assimilation, intermarriage and anti-Semitism. But I believe that none of these things represent the greatest threat to Jewish life today. Rather I think that the greatest threat to us lies in the reality that so many Jews do not have a good personal answer to the question “WHY BE JEWISH?” “Why should I hold on to and cherish this distinctive way of life, the traditions, the rituals, the values that we call Jewish values?”
Yes, unlike previous generations, we and our children do have a choice about being Jewish. No longer is being Jewish a fate that must be endured. It is a choice that we make, and a choice that our children will make for themselves.
The belief that our religious tradition is a path to moral light and hope. The belief our value system still has much to say to our world about justice and goodness and truth. The conviction that we can yet make this world a more humane and Godly setting. Those are the things that being Jewish is all about. And as a people, I dare say that we are strong, and our future secure in this world, only to the degree that we embrace and live those notions and values.
Says one of the compelling prayers of our prayerbook:
“O God of Israel, teach us to be worthy of the name of the Jew. May we understand our responsibility as Jews, to continue the task begun by earlier generations of our people: to serve in Your name, to bring light and blessing to all the families of the earth.”
Yes, in our time, we are all “Jews by Choice.” And I believe that to be both a worthy choice and a privilege that is granted to us. So may we cherish our identity as Jews, for we are much needed in a world that knows so much intolerance, cruelty and warfare. Each of us: may we be a source of light and blessing for such a world.
I wish you Shabbat Shalom and hope that you will be with us as we celebrate Shabbat this evening.
Rabbi David Greenberg