Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Symposium: Why People Become Orthodox III

(continued from here: I, II)

Reform Rabbi Evan Moffic serves Chicago Sinai Congregation in Chicago. A graduate of Stanford University, he was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2006. He has authored several articles on Modern Jewish Thought and American Jewish history.

There is a classic New Yorker cartoon that captures a weakness of liberal religious movements. In it a teacher at a tony Manhattan preschool is looking down at a young student who is saying, "Do I have to do what I want to do?" We live a consumerist world. We have many choices about where to live, what to eat, what to believe. For some, this variety of choices is ideal. It presents an opportunity to develop a personal identity, to create oneself. Yet, it can become trying. For most of human history, we were born into a group identity. We had little choice in who we were. As the cartoon suggests, part of us yearns for a clear sense of who we are and what we are meant to do.

For many Jews, Orthodoxy conveys that certainty. It answers the needs of those searching for a sense of authenticity and rootedness. It presents a clear definition of what it means to be Jewish and what that identity requires of us. I have seen young secular or Reform Jews yearning for clarity find it in Orthodoxy. While I hope that Reform Judaism can provide a sense of meaning and authenticity, I am glad that there are alternatives modalities for Jewish believing and belonging. We are a diverse people with different temperaments and backgrounds. My hope is that all of our movements can learn from and enrich one another.

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