Monday, March 14, 2011

Score One for Progressive Judaism

As I have mentioned on this blog, I was raised Reform (in a kosher home) and am now Shomeret Shabbat and belong to a Modern Orthodox shul, although I would have no problem belonging to a traditional egalitarian Conservative shul. I am not a strictly halakhic Jew, in other words, but my practice may be described as Orthodox-style, and I believe in a personal God Who gave us commandments and in Divine Providence. My instincts for social justice, however, are sometimes shocked by my experiences in a Modern Orthodox community, and this morning was no exception.

On account of said practice, I needed to find out the sof z'man kriyat Sh'ma this morning (the last time to say the Sh'ma prayer; yes, there is a time limit). I wasn't sure if Daylight Savings Time affected this. So, I went on to the Orthodox Union website (, natch). Right before I had gone on the website, my browser flashed the cover of the New York Times website, with its latest horrible news on the massive casualties and nuclear disaster of the Japan tsunami.

I am feeling some despair about what has been going on in the world in 2011. I'm not sure what I want (or can) do about it other than pray and give charity, but that's for another post. When I went to the OU website, I saw the following headline: "OU responds to Terrorist tragedy in Israel." Over Shabbat, a Palestinian breached the security of the West Bank settlement of Itamar and stabbed five people, including a BABY. I find this sick and disgusting, of course, and I find it even more sick and disgusting that the coverage of this tragedy has been less than, um, ideal, as the victims have often been described as nameless "settlers" and their story buried on page 15 or something. If an Israeli civilian had gone into an Arab village in the West Bank and killed five people, that would have been on page 1 for at least a week. And I am no fan of settlers or settlements.

That being the case, we are talking about five people here. And how, exactly, can the OU respond to that? What about Japan? People there need food, clothing, radiation detectors, etc. I am sure there are more than five expatriate American Jews who might need something. I know that every life is important, and I believe that, but this struck me as particularism and refusal to engage with the rest of the world run amok.

So I went to the website of the Union for Reform Judaism and saw this headline: "Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
In response to the tragic devastation of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the URJ has partnered with a number of North American Jewish organizations to form the Jewish Coalition for Japan Relief."

This struck me in my kishkes, as they say, as the far more appropriate headline, although I would have been pleased as punch to see both websites having both headlines. I guess you can take the girl out of Reform Judaism . . .


Shira Salamone said...

If it'll make you feel any better, the Orthodox Union is now collecting for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, as well as the victims of the terrorist attack in Israel.

elf said...

For what it's worth, I basically agree with everything you've said here.
(Thanks for the update, Shira.)

{ T G L } said...

Thanks for a brave and insightful post!

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