Ask the rabbi: Responses to 'Why be Jewish?'

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers,
I would like to share some of the responses received to date in answer to my question/challenge: Why be Jewish? Please take a good look at these thoughtful replies and let’s keep ’em comin’ and keep the dialogue going!
Dear Rabbi Fried,
My answer to the question, “Why stay Jewish” that you asked in the recent issue of the Texas Jewish Post is below:
Because being Jewish is a belief that there’s a system of behavior that matters and an awareness of the fact that we strengthen one another and help one another grow to be even better than we were yesterday. In fact, being Jewish is a life filled with purpose and meaning.

Joel B.

Dear Rabbi Fried,
The greatest gift my parents gave to me (other than the gift of life) is my Jewish birth. For while life allows me the opportunity to fulfill my mission in the physical realm, my Jewishness insures my survival and growth potential in the spiritual realm.
It is reassuring and reconfirming to me to know that I am a link in a continuum and tradition that goes back 3,500 years and the bridge between my ancestors and my children.
I take pride in the fact that I am a part of a people that introduced the concept of ethical monotheism to the world and whose mission it is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to Earth.

— Stuart S.

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have decided to enter into dialogue with you on this:
The affirmation of one God is the unity principle that is the foundation of Jewish faith. Through mitzvot, acts of kindness, repairing the brokenness in the world, ritual and prayer we can develop a personal relationship with God.  
Judaism has a variety of spiritual disciplines that elevate the soul, including daily prayer, the study of sacred texts, dietary standards, and Shabbat (the Sabbath).
The doing of mitzvot helps me to become a more moral and compassionate human being. Judaism transforms daily routine (the long haul of life) into sacred moments and sacred opportunities, helping to moor us in what is sometimes an anchorless world.
For Jews, deed is more important than creed. What people do is more important than what they believe.
Judaism encourages questioning and debate.  There are often multiple right answers to difficult questions and various points-of-view are encouraged.
The Jewish community provides support to the individual (and family) during life’s liminal moments, including those times in which we soar, as well as those that bring us into the deepest, darkest moments of our lives.  
Judaism fosters Jewish pride, as well as an ethnicity that connects Jews with one another, a connection that transcends any geographic border or time and space.
Judaism emphasizes lifelong personal and educational growth. Jewish education helps us to morally navigate the world and to grow in traits such as kindness, generosity, justice, and mercy.
Jews have a spiritual and historical connection to Israel. Its capital, Jerusalem, is the center of the Jewish spiritual world, where according to rabbinic teaching, heaven and earth touch.
As a Jew, I can be part of the ancient and continuing story of the Jewish people.  This story moves forward in history and will eventually bring us to the messianic period.

— Rabbi Kerry M. O.

Dear Rabbi Fried,
An article I recently read on by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith which stated beautifully the compelling reason to remain Jewish. In part it read:
“Jewish values and wisdom … have changed the moral landscape of human history. Being Jewish is so much more than bagels and lox; it is a great gift and responsibility, something to embrace, nurture, protect and celebrate. It is a meaningful inheritance you want to ensure is passed down to the next generation of Jews.”

Evelyn S. R., M.D.

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