December 8, 2022 |

Toward A Hopeful Judaism

Toward A Hopeful Judaism
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Potholes are rarely celebrated. Their appearances in the road as I drove with my wife to the hospital for the birth of our first child were cause only for gripped belly and gritted teeth as my imagination translated each opening of the path into a source of pain rather than an indication of a traveled (and hence, reliable) route. They were, of course, both, but I was only able to partially understand them, given my personal vulnerability and circumstance. So when I encountered a pothole on that redemptive path, I swerved to avoid it.

We frequently encounter potholes in our Jewish organizational world, well-worn (and occasionally pockmarked) paths that make journeying bumpy, and sometimes painful. Potholes can get in the way of recognizing a liberating path paved before us, but only if we see ourselves trapped by them. I had, on my way to the hospital, emotionally translated each hole into a stumbling block, a source of pain instead of an indication of accumulated wisdom left by yesterday?s travelers.

The response by many, typically younger, Jews to so many Jewish Institutional Paving Companies is to run in the opposite direction, searching for meaningful, smaller creative Jewish directions. Others, sometimes daughters and sons of the inherited frameworks, struggle to find that same value within. Both end up causing strain on the system, challenging it to stretch in unexpected ways.

What do we need to do to make this encounter healthy and hopeful both for those who have been there and those looking for an invitation? We must (as has been proven possible by The Conversation, a project of The Jewish Week) bring together soulful, mindful Jews in a cross-generational family reunion, where newly long-lost cousins can sit down to transform traditional, ritualized gatherings into fresh conversations with unfettered Jewish dreaming as the main dish.

All too often, newness is equated with the pain of potholes, and the institutional reflex becomes detour instead of exploration. Climate and time erode stable roadways, challenging us to either patch things up with a temporary tar treatment, or a deeper rethinking of the system itself. But if we, in our disparate communities, made the bold decision to invite unconventional Jewish dreamers to help plot of the journey, redirecting when necessary, this Jewish roadmap of ours would change in important and helpful ways.

A young Jewish musician once wrote ?negotiations and love songs are often mistaken for one and the same.? All too often, strategic Jewish conversations begin and end like complex negotiations, when what we could really use is a few new love songs.

Every strategic Jewish conversation can be a moment in which we realize that a hopeful Judaism is, simply put, already here. All we need to do is remember how to dream together again. The potholes tell us where we?ve been. Today?s drivers, one and all, decide the next path.

The bumpiest road might also be the most potentially redemptive. After all, birth awaits.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Joined: September 20, 2007

A prolific writer, musician, and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA. Rabbi Creditor currently serves on the Executive Council of the Rabbinical Assembly, the Board of Trustees of the UC Berkeley Hillel, and on the Rabbinic Advisory...

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