Judaism for Dummies, Or, I’m A Dumb Jew

S’sorry friends, the site was down all weekend and I couldn’t blog yesterday, so you’re getting it fast and furious before the morning hurricane of children and lunchmaking and figuring out which shoes hurt my feet the least.

On my monkey mind is David Suissa’s column in this week’s Jewish Journal, titled “Dumbing Down Judaism.” It’s definitely a rail at the watery collection of mindless rituals that American Judaism has become in many communities — you gotta love this line:

We are nurturing a generation of Jewish noshers who only want to lick the icing off the Jewish cake.

But Suissa’s directing his criticism towards Jewish philanthropy, of all things.

It’s almost as if American Judaism, in its desperate struggle to keep Jews from vanishing into the gentile mainstream, has become a marketing carnival. And Jewish philanthropy — driven by a Holocaust-level fear of losing Jews – has helped fund this carnival.

I can’t say I disagree. Suissa’s admonition that there needs to be less “outreach” to unaffiliated Jewish adults and more “inreach” to those of us already committed to the faith who are ostensibly standing around with our fingers in our noses waiting for someone to teach us a little Torah and Pirkei Avot hits a nerve. Read the article, discuss, let me know whatcha think.

I do confess that I wish the Jewish marketing carnival was a little better around here — sometimes it feels like I have no idea what any other Jews are doing unless we’re all in the JEA pool on Sunday afternoons. (Maybe I should try going to synagogue more often, fool!) I’ve recently had the honor of consulting on the serious makeover of the monthly Savannah Jewish News, which should help this denomination-obsessed community know itself a little better. I keep telling anyone who will listen that gentiles don’t care about Reform, Conservative or Orthodox divisiveness, and can’t we all just get along? But what do I know, dumb Jew…

4 thoughts on “Judaism for Dummies, Or, I’m A Dumb Jew

  1. Yo no dummy,and I agree with your opinion that we need to concentrate on Jewishly committed Jews by providing us with what we need in order to learn and practice and remain committed. I’m glad your site is back – I dropped my blood pressure when I discovered I couldn’t connect.

  2. Yenta — I think all three of our local synagogues do a reasoably good job providing an accessible social and worship setting for their congregation (although each has it’s flaws, of course) but I find it pretty easy to float across the divides, easier here than in the Northeast that’s for sure!

    As to outreach, there’s really no excuse for anyone who really wants to learn more — just hop on the web and read at the flava of your choice:


    Make it a weekly habit … but beware the J-blogs, they’re addictive.

  3. Tee hee, you’re pretty funny, Dan. Perhaps it’s that I’m a woman with familial attachments to one synagogue that makes this so hard sometimes. Oh yeah, and the fact that I’m super lazy.

  4. what you’re not allowed to visit other shuls? … oh lazy … nah, I don’t believe that about you, you’re a parent, it’s called exhaustion, I know all about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *