Why Be Jewish?

April 30, 2013

by Rabbi Michael Green Whybejewish

I have had the pleasure of hearing Doron Kornbluth, author of  the newly released book, Why be Jewish, speak on several continents. Be it to seminary students in Jerusalem or a room comprised of mostly unaffiliated Persian Jews in Beverly Hills, I’ve always been impressed by his ability to not just captivate and inspire the audience—but to engage and empower them with something to think about as they walk home or drive off into the evening. Arguably most recognized for being the best-selling author of, Why Marry Jewish, Doron chose to tackle an even more fundamental question in his latest release.

Truth be told, this question is one that I presume any good Jew ponders at least once or twice throughout their lifetime!

Frankly, in our contemporary times, a question such as: why be Jewish? is more important to address and truly understand—before one even thinks of the subject of marriage! That said, as a husband, father, religious Jew, and Orthodox Rabbi, I was curious to see if this book was going to speak to me as well.

After reading this book cover to cover, I can report that Why be Jewish exceeded my expectations!

I credit this to the fact that Doron opted not to write this book as he had written his other works. First, the entire book is written in a  format that allows the reader to flip through the book and select a chapter or section that speaks to them. Second, each chapter is written as a different narrative and allows one to hear various perspectives about the choice and way in which ones Jewish pride developed. In so doing, this allows the reader to be exposed to a plethora of experiences from which they can relate to and grab a hold of as well! All in all, I found the writing style useful, not just because it will speak to a generation that is increasingly used to reading short blog posts and not long novels—but because if one chapter doesn’t relate to the reader or their life experiences—one is assured that there will be many other stories that do resonate with their upbringing.

While I do not take the author to task about some of the people he elected to write about in his book (see the comments here for instance), I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Read the rest of this entry »


Why Marry Jewish?

April 28, 2013

by Jack Abramowitz Why Marry Jewish

Why should anyone in today’s society care about marrying Jewish? Nowadays, a smoker marrying a non-smoker or a vegetarian marrying a carnivore is likely to raise more eyebrows than a Jew marrying a non-Jew. After all, isn’t anyone who refuses to interdate, and potentially intermarry, elitist? Or worse, aren’t they racist?
Friends and relatives hoping to dissuade intermarriage may give a variety of reasons: Jewish continuity; the prohibition against marrying out of the faith, as outlined in Deuteronomy, chapter 7; what would Bubby say?, et cetera.

Unfortunately, while these arguments may be quite compelling to the giver, the average person contemplating intermarriage doesn’t really care about Jewish continuity; Deuteronomy, chapter 7 or what Bubby would say, et cetera. Anyone seriously at risk of intermarriage is not likely to be swayed by someone quoting Rambam. (Would that it were that simple!) That’s why Doron Kornbluth is here to help.

Kornbluth is an author whose works on modern Jewish thought may already be familiar to readers. In addition to articles he has authored, Kornbluth edited Jewish Matters and co-edited Jewish Women Speak about Jewish Matters (with his wife, Sarah Tikvah Kornbluth). The genius behind Kornbluth’s approach here is that he doesn’t try to appeal to any particular sense of Jewish community (which is unlikely to be successful), or worse, Jewish guilt (which is undoubtedly doomed to failure). Rather, he takes the approach of “what’s in it for me?” demonstrating the potential repercussions intermarriage could have upon the intermarried themselves.

An example of Kornbluth’s approach at work: An argument that could be presented by someone contemplating intermarriage is the very basic question, “What difference does intermarriage make if neither partner is observant in their respective faiths?” With a simple word-association quiz, Kornbluth shows how even Jews who consider themselves unaffiliated may possess “innate negative reactions to much Christian imagery.” The same imagery, of course, may hold very positive connotations for their potential spouses. This exercise reveals some very strong, diametrically opposed emotional reactions that a couple might otherwise not discover until triggered by some event later in life. Baptizing a child, for example, can be very distasteful even to an unaffiliated Jew, but it may not be a topic of conversation until the couple is expecting.

This is by no means the only arrow in Kornbluth’s quiver. In another section, he Read the rest of this entry »


A Review of Why Be Jewish?

January 23, 2013

by Ian Sandler Whybejewish

As the CEO of a large Jewish organisation, I often wonder, in the face of adversity what being Jewish in a modern, multicultural country entails, or whether members of our community have given up?  When asked and rather than identify themselves as being Jewish, do they say they have no religion at all?  Sometimes, at face value, being Jewish seems to have more negatives than positives.

For those of us whose Jewish identity is defined by our love and allegiance to Israel, the weekly barrage of criticism can be extremely upsetting and seem like a personal attack. Many of our youth feel they are ‘Jewed out’ following prolonged time ‘served’ in Jewish day schools and many of the young adults believe that their dating/marriage pool is severely limited!

Being Jewish seems hard and it’s easy to see why some consciously or unconsciously try to unburden themselves of the label of being Jewish in favour of an unfettered existence within general Sydney society.

So why be Jewish?  As much as we may try to fight it, deny it or insist that it really makes no difference in this day and age, being Jewish makes up an important part of who we are as individuals, and how we are perceived by those who are not.

Doron Kornbluth, author of Raising Kids to Love Being Jewish identifies that many Jews today feel no significant difference to their non Jewish counterparts and rightly so.  We live a secular life – we play the same sports, shop in the same places, enjoy the same television shows and movies and have the same political discussions over the adeptness of our government. However, despite these similarities, despite lack of conscious recognition, many Jews are aware of a connection to Judaism in some form.  Furthermore, Kornbluth highlights that feeling Jewish is something that changes according to life stages and the cycle of life events one experiences. In our community, many of us Read the rest of this entry »