Or this description:
“Too much Judaism scares them off. Too little, and what’s the difference between what you do and Isis?” Rosen said.
The best examples are programs with five minutes of Jewish content and then a block of time for just socializing, he said.
Of course, Chabad has mastered the art of content-less content. As has the Reform movement, in a different direction. Sing a blessing or make Havdallah (with guitar, natch) or study a quick text and then we're off to the races, whether it's going on a hayride or doing some social action activity or whatever.
And there's nothing really wrong with the activities mentioned or the idea of using this as another outreach tool to get the unaffiliated and unenthusiastic (as Rabbi Eric Yoffie once opined, unaffiliation is a kind of affiliation all its own). And really, who doesn't think the cost of Jewish involvement isn't steep? Hence so many congregations and JCCs and other organizations implementing more and more 'try before you buy'-type programs: Taste of Judaism, prospective member programs, etc. Even programs outside synagogue buildings. Again, nothing is really new here in terms of the content.
I guess what riles me up and renders me speechless is the ambivalence on the part of the quoted individuals, especially toward 'too much Judaism', as if somehow the content is the problem.
Again, not new ideas--we can trace some of these attitudes back to the founding of B'nai Brith, the Zionist movements in America, the Workman's Circle, etc. And I'm hardly one who foists more than connection-building on folks when we do programming. But still, something just feels...off.
Rabbi Judith Abrams taught a class at a CCAR conference many years ago where we were talking about normative Judaism. She pulled out a bunch of stuff, mostly kitsch (think bar mitzvah bears and car mezuzahs), and passed them around. We had a good laugh and then in all seriousness she asked, "which is mainstream American Judaism? Our members who affiliate, or those whose connection to Judaism is this stuff and not much else?"
That point has stuck with me for a while and I often find myself asking that question: what if we have it wrong--what if they're mainstream Jews, and we're the outliers? And does it matter?
Anyway, article follows below.