President's Message - November 2011
What is a Jew?
This may seem like a question that has been asked for ages, and has been answered in countless ways. But, I am not asking “who” is a Jew. That is the far easier question. I am asking “what” is a Jew?
If a Jew is one who is either born of a Jewish mother, or accepts Judaism of his own volition, then he “is” a Jew. There are many Jews who, to one degree or another, proudly wear the appellation, “Jew”, whether they are secular, or not.
Though I have no hard statistics, I suspect that there are very few converts from Judaism. The Jews we “lose” to assimilation appear to be more a product of “drift” than of choice.
Then, “what is a Jew”? What is the essence of that, which we call and recognize as essentially Jewish in a person? What is the “Pintele Yid” – the Jewish spark? (As you may know, a Yud, the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is unique, in that however much of it you cut off, or remove, the remainder still resembles the original Hebrew letter “Yud”. In that sense, the Yud is what modern mathematics would call a fractal. The Jewish People are like that too. In one Jew, you find a microcosm of all Judaism. In one person, a microcosm of all humanity.)
I suspect that one aspect of the essence of a Jew, is his desire to perpetuate those behaviors that we consider God-like, such as honor, mercy, charity, and doing good deeds. We perpetuate a culture that favors these attributes because we are Jewish, and because it is in our essence to do so.
After all, the entire Jewish heritage consists of one long series of stories honoring men and women who strove to be better people, and more God-like.
What do we do when we strive to be better people, and more God-like?
We act honorably in business and in personal relations; we treat people kindly, and not intentionally cause them pain; we act gently with people who are sick, elderly, infirm, or are in mourning; and we find ways in our personal lives to teach others these traits by example, wherever possible.
We also give to Jewish causes. We give to Israel, to UJA, to Hadassah, and to large organizations which provide large-scale help.
We also give to our synagogue. EMJC is a small organization that provides a spiritual home for our Community; a place to gather and worship every day; a place to bring our children, and teach them by example, how to be a Jew.
Sometimes we forget that being Jewish starts in our “home”. Lets remember that East Midwood Jewish Center is our home, and lets support it in as many ways as we can.
To support Judaism, we do not have to look far. Here, at EMJC we have classes for children and adults, a raft of activities for all ages, young and old alike, and a facility that more than meets our social, physical and spiritual needs. Your charitable giving to EMJC is the “blood” that keeps Judaism alive and flowing in our part of the world. Please do your part, and know that we are the face of inclusive, egalitarian Judaism in Brooklyn.
Through all of our efforts, this wonderful, historic place can have an ongoing, vibrant meaning to many, now and for years to come.