Quaker Universalist Conversations

“Learning To Embrace the Hybrid Jew”

Excerpts from The Jewish Daily Forward

These excerpts from “Learning To Embrace the Hybrid Jew – You Don’t Always Have to Pick Judaism Over Another Religion,” written by Jay Michaelson (2/23/2015), are republished with permission from The Jewish Daily Forum. The Seesaw article to which Michaelson refers is “I Don’t Want to Be Jewish Anymore.”

Lily Padula Having It All: The hybrid Jew finds a balance between Judaism and other religions. Image by Lily Padula for the Jewish Daily Forward

Learning To Embrace the Hybrid Jew – You Don’t Always Have to Pick Judaism Over Another Religion

One of last month’s most-read articles on forward.com was an installment of the Seesaw, the Forward’s group advice column on multi-faith families, entitled “I Don’t Want to Be Jewish Anymore.” It showed how little we in the Jewishly-engaged world (by definition, that’s you) understand about the other 70%.

Let’s start with the title, presumably written by one of my colleagues here at the Forward. Readers may not be aware that editors, not writers, usually write headlines. As it happens, this one was simply inaccurate. Nowhere does the questioner say she does not want to be Jewish anymore. On the contrary, she says quite clearly that she would continue to participate in Jewish communal life.

What she wants, now that her children are grown and in Jewish families of their own, is “to return to worship” with the Society of Friends (Quakers), in addition to her synagogue.

Both-and, not either-or. Not only is this not “not being Jewish,” it’s how more and more Jews actually are Jewish today. Hybridization is a fact….

First, multi-faith families are the majority among non-Orthodox Jews, and many of those families continue to visit extended families for holidays, and attend non-Jewish as well as Jewish houses of prayer.

Second, increasing numbers of Jews (again, we lack solid data) find themselves nourished by multiple faith traditions…..

This does not mean there are no red lines — only that the lines are somewhere other than the doorway of a Quaker meeting house.

The most popular comments on the piece pointed this out…. There is nothing theologically or Jewishly problematic about a Quaker meeting — which is often mostly silent, punctuated by individuals speaking from the heart (“moved by the holy spirit,” yes, but the ruach hakadosh is part of Judaism too)….

The spirituality of a Quaker meeting is profound. It is an opportunity for a community to hear directly what’s going on for people in their lives, and to sit as a group in silence. To me, it would make an excellent complement to more boisterous, joyous, freilach Jewish services.

Once again: both/and, not either/or.

Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor to the Forward. Read his entire article at “Learning To Embrace the Hybrid Jew – You Don’t Always Have to Pick Judaism Over Another Religion.”