Iâ€™m a few days late, but I must take serious issue with my good friend Ariel Beeryâ€™s recent Blogs of Zion post about the prayer for the State of Israel — and some communities that are revisiting its language and place in the service.
In a move that should shock no-one who understands the history of reform Judaism and its paradigm shift away from Judaism-as-a-lifestyle, the JTA is reporting that congregations have decided to stop or change their recitation of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel.
So wasnâ€™t I surprised when the JTA article begins with a discussion of Altshul, the traditional egalitarian (reform?) minyan in Park Slope, Brooklyn that I have been involved with since its inception.
Ariel seems to see all those communities mentioned in the article as distinctly â€œreligiousâ€? or â€œspiritualâ€? — i.e. unconcerned with Jewish Peoplehood. Writes Ariel: â€œFrom a Zionist perspective, this move is further proof that a Judaism that is limited to the religious tradition of the Jews acts to tear apart our historical community.â€?
As a loyal member of Altshul, I have to say that Ariel is seriously mistaken in his diagnosis of who we are. Altshul does, indeed, hold a prayer service, but Iâ€™d venture to say that more of its members come for a sense of community and connection to other Jews than they do to commune with the Divine Spirit.
(In fact, Iâ€™ve described Altshul â€“ in jest â€“ as Hadar without soul.)
Ariel concludes his post with a bewildering statement that Iâ€™d love for him to explain:
In this case, the unwillingness of American Jewish â€™spiritual folkâ€™ to get their hands dirty suggests, I would argue, that theyâ€™re leaving us behind — that is, the Jewish People — in their own search for purity. But since they havenâ€™t yet accepted the principal of conversion, theyâ€™re less like the early Christians and more like the Essenes — and if history is any indication, Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™ll turn out so well for them either.
What principal of conversion have the â€œspiritual folkâ€? (we Altshulers?) not accepted?
For the record, Altshul — as far as I know — continues to recite the prayer for the State of Israel.