Social Action Within Our Walls: Smashing Jewish Idols

Like Abraham, who introduced a new model for relating to God and humankind, we continue to integrate social justice concerns into Jewish religious practice.

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Look at the changes in recent years: equal rights and status of women in three of the four major movements; the ordination of women as rabbis; outreach to the unaffiliated and "stranger" living among us; ordination of gays and lesbians in two of the four movements; and an increased focus on Hebrew, sacred texts, and Jewish ritual among committed liberal Jews. Our wanderings from place to place have brought us back to Judaism; but not without making meaningful changes in our religious life, as Abraham himself did more than a few thousand years ago.

In his last book of poetry published before his death, Yehuda Amichai wrote:

"We are all children of Abraham But also the grandchildren of Terah, Abraham's father And maybe it's high time the grandchildren Did unto their father as he did unto his When he shattered his idols and images, his religion, his faith. That too would be the beginning of a new religion." (From Open Closed Open, New York: Harcourt, 2000)

A new generation has smashed the idols of assimilation and acculturation and declared that being Jewish is as essential to their condition as being American. The question for us remains, as Amichai proposed in his inimitably playful way: which idols will fall? And as we pursue justice concerns within Judaism, what new light will be shed on our ancient, sacred tradition?

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Rabbi Andrew Bachman

Rabbi Andy Bachman is the spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn's largest Reform synagogue. He is also the co-founder, along with his wife Rachel Altstein, of Brooklyn Jews, a unique cultural and learning programs for Jews in their 20s and 30s.