I hugely proud to be a Masorti Rabbi, leading a Masorti community, this weekend in particular.
Firstly this is a Judaism I believe in. I believe in a relationship between the Jews and the Divine which requires no dislocation between my faith and my experience, between what I know from academic scholarship and what I read in the texts of my tradition. I also feel embedded in my tradition when I experience it through Masorti lenses; still speaking the same language, lighting the same flames, reading the same texts. I can make myself at home here.
Secondly I believe the Masorti path, in matters both Jewish and general, is a path which can bring healing to our battered planet and our people. The siren calls of fundamentalism and godless secularism beguile some, but they fill me with fear. Around the pole of fundamentalism lurks danger; a dangerous attitude towards religious authority and a dangerous attitude to anyone who believes something other than the fundamentalists’ charter. Around the pole of secularism lurks a hole where values should be; how do we, as a society, limit the siren power of materialism, fashion and the corporeal. Of course we need money in our bank account, clothes on our back and a fit and strong body, but our soul too needs nurturing to the point where it can lift our actions and aspirations beyond the merely material. We need to develop the skills to delay our desires for gratification, to live with contradiction and to chart a course between polarities, whether we are considering matters of religious ritual, social responsibility or global concern. The Masorti path is that path.
Thirdly I’ll stand to be judged by the quality of the company I keep. Across America Masorti Rabbis are at the forefront of the Hechsher Tzedek initiative which campaigns to ensure that Jewish kashrut providers employ workers on a living wage, with appropriate benefits and seeks to bring an end to the embarrassment of Kosher establishment being shut down by various government employment agencies for breech of basic employee protections. In Portugal Masorti Rabbis are working with locals who trace their Jewish ancestry back to 1496 and are looking for a way to reconnect with a tradition they know only by its shadow. In Germany Masorti Rabbis are working to give many of the 150,000 Russian Jews who have moved to Germany opportunities to integrate into German society while developing a Jewish spark Communism almost snuffed out. In Israel Masorti Rabbis are attempting to give the vast majority of traditional Israelis a meaningful engagement with their Jewish heritage, freed of the taint of a Haredi community who seem often to understand only self-interest and desire only power.
New London is part of a movement which with integrity, a unique perspective on matters both religious and secular and the ability to form the future of our Jewish world.
Three things to do about it.
Firstly, use the ‘M’ word. We should be proud of who we are and where we stand.
Secondly, come to Shul this Shabbat, where our guest scholar in residence will be Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the Masorti Rabbinic Assembly.
Thirdly, it’s still not too late to register for the Yom Masorti conference where 200 Jews from nine countries across Europe will be coming to New North London Synagogue to learn, share, dream – and eat. This Sunday from 9:45-4:45, but you can sneak in late or leave early. I hope to see you there.