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Stormy Weather with Clearer Skies Approaching

04/09/2019 08:21:19 AM


“Arguing against intermarriage is like arguing against the weather,” said Egon Mayer, the founder of the Jewish Outreach Institute well over thirty years ago.  I’ll never forget the expert historical claim of my professor, Rabbi David Ellenson, who taught us that in every emancipated Jewish community throughout history, by the third generation, 1/3 of Jews married people from non-Jewish backgrounds.  And yet, despite history’s calumnies against the Jews and our own revolutionary spirit that reframes and reclaims our traditions in ever evolving ways, we are still here.  One of the most profound findings from the most recent Pew Center poll on American Jewish identity, shows that pride in Jewish identity amongst millennials is on the rise; it’s just that affiliation with our communities’ edificial norms is not.  By “edificial,” I certainly allude to the buildings and physical infrastructures of our communities, but even more so, what has become a greater and more challenging problem is our communal intransigence.  Despite tremendously creative endeavors in small pockets throughout the American Jewish world, the walls that separate those who are “in” from those who are “out,” are scaled with far too much difficulty.

With this in mind, Passover arrives at the perfect time.  For what better story to inspire a grander and more compassionate embrace of “the many newcomers” and “others,” in our lives than the meta-story of the Jewish people – the Exodus.  It is not unimportant that those who leave Egypt are called an “erev rav,” a mixed multitude.  I imagine it as a beautiful gathering of Jews, Jewish families and those who love what Judaism is meant to inspire in us all – a reminder that each of us is a uniquely divine reflection of God.  And that it is for the expression of that divine uniqueness for which we were born.  Gathered at our Passover tables will be “natural born Jews,” “Jews by choice,” “Jewish adjacents,” and those who are “Jew-curious.”  Ha lachma anya di achalu!  “This is the bread of affliction, all who are hungry, come and eat.” 

At the first Passover, who was there?  A mixed multitude.  And at the helm?  Moses, a Jew who was raised in a different culture and religion than his family of origin; his wife, Tzipporah, the daughter of Yitro, the High Priest of Midian; their sons, Gershom (meaning, “A stranger there”) and Eliezer (meaning, “God is my help”); and father in law, Yitro, himself.  If that’s where we started, shouldn’t our Passover Seder tables reflect that?  May your Passover inspire you towards the great heights promised to us by the simple virtue of your birth.  And may no one be allowed to stand in your way. 

Rabbi Scott

For more information and to sign up for the Shma Koleinu Community Seder, click here.


Mon, January 25 2021 12 Shevat 5781