To the folks who worry about Jewish education becoming "politicized" -- talk to those of us who cannot teach in a synagogue school because we still don't know how we feel about the Israel/Palestine thing and are not allowed to be honest about our ambivalence or lack of knowledge. Jewish education is already politicized whether we like it or not. And the vitirol being spewed here makes me want to avoid the topic altogether and consider what it might be like to be a Jew without a connection of any kind to Israel.
And guess what? I'm not alone.
A lot of us who grew up outside the bubble are not getting the support we need to learn more, to ask honest questions and to examine the multiple perspectives that inform the discussion here in North America and on the ground in Israel-Palestine. So if I don't feel safe asking my questions without getting slammed for having them in the first place, it's no wonder I'm considering how i might live Jewishly without that connection. Seems like too many people here want me to Stand With Something Or Other from the start. Sorry, that hasn't been my path. Sue me. And I'll be skipping this online conversation because I can already see that it could end up being a bashfest on both sides.
Perhaps -- and I write this knowing full well the professional risks involved in doing so -- it's time to have a discussion about how to live Jewishly outside of Israel without one's Jewishness depending on what happens in Israel.
Before anyone screams at me, know this: if you have the means to send your kids to Israel and/or visit yourself every year, if you have relatives there, if you are descended from Holocaust survivors who made their lives anew there -- this conversation is probably not for you. Because it cannot be for you.
But if you came to Judaism some other way, through some other doorway; If you are a convert, if you are low-income, If you are unaffiliated, If you live a town with virtually no or very little Jewish communal life happening -- then this conversation could be for you. Because being Jewish does not and cannot automatically require us to live in a certain place or even in a certain way anymore. It hasn't since before I was born, and outside of the most Orthodox communities it may never be that way again in the foreseeable future.
My Judaism is DIY, creative, resourceful and does not depend upon a strong connection to Eretz Yisrael, at least for now. It does not exclude Jews whose lives look different; rather, it creates a louder voice for those Jews who don't feel welcome in North American Jewish circles for one reason or another (the two biggies are intermarriage and poverty). The music I write, the art I create, and the way I inhabit my Jewish sefl are all informed by this reality. And I believe there's space in the tent for me and other independents like me.
Moreover, I believe there MUST be space in the tent for us if Jewish identity and Jewish life are to survive outside of Israel.
I want to be someone who helps make that space happen.