On preserving Judaism’s long-term future


To the Editor:

As a kid growing up in Queens, N.Y., I attended a Conservative synagogue. It, too, was a bar mitzvah factory. Once I was bar mitzvahed my observance, such that it was, waned completely. For me, Jewishness was being secular in Israel. But that didn’t last, and neither did my connection.

My son, at age 11, asked me if he could be bar mitzvahed; his best friend was already studying toward bar mitzvah. So I joined a Reform synagogue, my son attended "school" there and was bar mitzvahed.

Under most circumstances he would have done what all his friends did — forget about that temple and move on. My son, however, met two Chabad rabbis by chance and found himself being drawn to observant Judaism. Today he is in Israel studying Torah and Talmad at a post-high school yeshiva after having spent his last two years of high school at a yeshiva in Los Angeles.

I’m non-observant, so I don’t really understand why he’s gone that route, but I do know that the loosey-goosey way in which Reform Judaism treats tradition and observance became a huge turnoff for him. I’m not sure there is a solution for Reform Judaism. By encouraging its openness to personalizing Judaism and taking what works for one and leaving what doesn’t, it has sown the seeds of its own slow demise. If there is a long-term future for Judaism, it is probably the recurrence in interest by kids like my son in observant Judaism plus its much higher birth rate.

Rob Brownstein
Santa Cruz, Calif.

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