The Necessity of Masorti Judaism
My teacher, Rabbi Louis Jacobs - founding Rabbi of this shul, in whose memory we host Sunday’s memorial lecture – disagreed with his teachers. I hope I don’t offend his memory by disagreeing with him.
The root of my disagreement has nothing to do with theology, understanding of Jewish history or Halachah - but rather with the necessity of Rabbi Jacobs’ message. Rabbi Jacobs felt he spoke for himself and to a few select compadres. In this, it has to be said, he sided with Maimonides whose Guide for the Perplexed was written for the few and aimed to validate even fewer. Certainly from the time I was becoming involved in Masorti Judaism, Rabbi Jacobs was uncomfortable with the notion that he should be seen as leading a new brand or movement in Judaism. He never saw New London’s approach as one suitable for anything other than a small band of brothers and sisters.
For me this cannot be. While I would certainly justify anyone who felt committed to Jewish paths either more Orthodox or more Reform I have no interest in the kind of Judaism I practice and preach being a minority interest. Not only, I believe, are the needs of this society and the planet we find ourselves on best met by commitment to the wisdom of ancient faith traditions combined with an open minded engagement with truths discovered at the forefront of technological and academic advance, but also – and just as importantly – a Jewish community without size and committed populace is an irrelevancy, even if it is intellectually ‘correct.’
The weakness of our community is not in our ideology, but in our size and the strength. We need to become more numerous and more committed; not only at New London, but in our sister communities. That way the Judaism we believe in, the Judaism Rabbi Jacobs believed in, will become more central to Anglo-Jewry, world Jewry and British society – all good and desperately needed things.
That’s why I am delighted the Louis Jacobs Memorial Lecture, this year, will be looking at an Agenda for Masorti Judaism. Our Quest can and should no longer simply be about matters of the intellect. It has become a Quest to become, to coin a modern term, ‘viral.’ That we have the Senior Rabbi of the Masorti Movement joining us to give this lecture makes Sunday’s talk even more vital for the future of our community and the kind of Judaism we believe in.
I hope to see you there.