Last day to send in your Elephant in the Room essays!

Today is the deadline to submit your entry for the Elephant in the Room contest. Many voices have already joined the conversation, but it’s still not complete. Have a different perspective on the question than the ones you’ve seen here? We want to hear it. Here are a few more excerpts to get you started:

“To be Jewish without God means to be able to say ‘I’m Jewish and . . .,’ not ‘I’m Jewish but . . .’ It means I am able to affirmatively state what I do believe and not define myself in contradistinction to what others believe. No sheepish apologies, or defensive postures are offered as I do not need to explain what I do not believe in order to be Jewish.  I am Jewish and I believe in the power and authority of human beings over their own lives.  I am Jewish and I believe that it is incumbent on each generation of Jews to make Judaism personally meaningful.”

- Jodi Kornfeld

“Without our faith, we Jews are nothing. The Holocaust, support for Israel, bagels and lox, and Yiddish expressions cannot maintain a healthy Jewish people.   Without a strong belief in God, standards break down, and society deteriorates.  As the Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz so aptly states, ‘Judaism without belief in God is like believing in humanity without human beings.’”

“…To be Jewish means not only to believe in God, but to practice His will: to follow and observe Shabbat, kashrut, prayer, family purity, and all the ethical or moral commandments.”

- Franklin Snyder

“I spent a good long time feeling lonely.  Homeless.  A Jew without God is a Jew without community.”

 “Here is where my Jewish ambivalence peeks out of the burning bushes; I am a self-professed atheist, yet I can’t stomach the thought of my children growing up without their cultural heritage. … This is a heavy burden to carry for twenty years.”

“There are others like me.  Most of them live in New York, not Kentucky.  I am still lonely without a congregation.  I am still riddled with guilt.  And I still don’t have answers for my children.”

- Amy Miller

“Being Jewish without belief in God did not thwart my life-long dream – that of becoming a rabbi. As a Humanistic rabbi, I am able to bring those who, in abandoning the belief in a supernatural deity and no longer willing to say words that they did not believe, felt that Judaism was lost to them. I am enriched by knowing that having a viable alternative brings them back home, into the Jewish community.  Being Jewish without believing in God has not hindered my continuous engagement in Judaism. I have raised my children, celebrated Jewish holidays and marked life’s moments within a Jewish context, consistent with my beliefs, and allowed me to guide others to do the same.”

- Miriam Jerris

“I believe my role as a Jewish mother is to instill in my children a strong sense of Judaism as part of  their personal identities.  I believe I have succeeded because at 4 and 6 they cheer for Shabbat, ask when Sunday School is, know our Humanistic rituals and sing to the Maccabeats on YouTube.”

- Alison Chalom

Neither of my grandparents made it through the war with an intact belief in God, though both of them came from religious families … Still, though neither of my grandparents ever expressed a belief in a supernatural power, both of them showed through their actions what they did believe: that it’s our job to take care of one another; that there is beauty in humanity, in the relationships that we make and the way we treat our fellow men; that ethical behavior exists even without the threat of punishment from an angry God; that there is much to laugh about and much to rejoice; and that even though sometimes terrible things do happen, sometimes there is beauty and kindness, as well.”

- Elana Arnold

2 responses to “Last day to send in your Elephant in the Room essays!

  1. The first of the Ten Commandments says it all. A person who does not accept the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not allowed to call himself/herself Jewish. Belief in God is first. Everything else flows from that. A person can argue about “cultural heritage” and “traditions” and “viable alternatives” and “personally meaningful human power” and all that, but it is all meaningless without God.

    Ed Horwitz

  2. Pingback: Being Jewish, god-optional | Shalom from Rabbi Chalom

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