Two Jewish manifestos that are worth your time

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

 A new book to read comes with a message about Passover — “Judaism Disrupted: A Spiritual Manifesto for the 21st Century” by Rabbi Michael Strassfeld — what could be more exciting? Many of us remember the “Jewish Catalog” which came out 50 years ago. It was called a “do-it-yourself kit” for being and doing Jewish. The book was filled with all the important how-tos and it was written in an inviting fashion that said that anyone can do it. Today, (and I say this sadly) we don’t need a book — we can Google almost anything we need to know and can learn everything from a YouTube video.

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld who is an editor of the “Jewish Catalog” series believes that it’s time to go beyond the “how” to the “why” and so wrote this manifesto to challenge us to look beyond the doing to deeper understanding. From an article in Hadassah magazine, Strassfeld shares this example: 

It has become clear to me that we also need new practices that speak to the contemporary moment. In this reframing, each holiday enables us to concentrate on a key aspect of our lives. On Passover, we refrain from eating leavened bread, which is permitted every other week of the year. This allows us to focus our attention on food itself and the way it often weighs us down: Do we eat in healthy ways? Do we sometimes binge on snacks, hoping in vain that food will fill an emotional need? What if, during one meal each day of Passover, we slow down the pace of our eating to help us pay attention to an aspect of daily life that is often challenging? 

The book speaks of 11 core principles and has ways to go deeper and look at how we live our lives today. However, don’t start with the core principles — read the dedication, the forward by Sylvia Boorstein and the introduction. AND, be sure to have your yellow highlighter ready because there is so much you will want to focus on and remember. PLUS, get it now — as we experience Passover, it is time to recognize what freedom is all about and why it is so important perhaps more than ever today.

 This message of making Judaism real and meaningful today is also the message of “Why Do Jewish; A Manifesto for 21st Century Jewish Peoplehood” by Zach Bodner. Two writers sharing their manifesto for Judaism which are similar yet different. What is a manifesto? From Google, manifestos can help focus priorities, provide motivation, act as a behavioral modification tool and inspire positive change. In writing your manifesto, the question “What do you believe?” is key. A manifesto is both a statement of principles and a call to action. Both of these excellent books serve as a challenge for us to evaluate where we are today in our own Jewish lives and help guide us to make choices to live a life of meaning. Study, learn, share, enjoy and write your own manifesto on the path you are taking!

Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center

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