Original Mission Statement

In 1917 Walter Lippmann, then barely 25 and destined to be one of the great American journalists of the twentieth century, wrote “we have changed the world more quickly than we know how to change ourselves.” Now here we are, in the year 2000, and what was true 80 years ago is true today, kol v’chomer – how very much more so today. And as the world spins, the Jewish people spin with it. We have been a distinctive part of the world through three millennia and countless countries, and everywhere we have stayed faithful to our best understanding of what our tradition demanded of us, and yet have learned and changed and evolved at the same time. So as modernity mutates into postmodernity, we face issues that every person and every people responds to, consciously or accidentally: What is our place in the world? What is our vision? A few specific questions: How do we remain faithful to an ancient and often particularistic tradition whilst being part of a diverse postmodern world? How do we get to love Judaism, yiddishkeit, the Jewish people, kosher food, Pesach seder, Jerusalem, the Negev, Golders Green, the Upper West Side . . . […]

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Jews in the Woods

In the summer of 1998, I led a group of Jewish teenagers on a two week hiking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This is the story of how awful it was – the miserable weather, the arguments, the religious problems, the midpoint mutiny – and why, nevertheless, I think we should all get out in the woods a lot more often… This is the group: nine Jewish teenagers: seven girls and only two boys. Religiously most are observant, but not all: of those who are there is some difference between the strictly halachic and the conservadox. At the other end of the spectrum is a girl who attends a Conservative dayschool but has a Turkish Moslem father and and is proud of her Turkish heritage. Most are from the Boston area, but one is from the Midwest. The strongest character is a sixteen year old girl; the youngest, a thirteen year old boy who is big for his age and who seems to be present in consequence of familial “encouragement” – his cousin really wants the trip to happen and says that without him there’ll be too few people. (more…)

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The Queen and the Messenger

Once there was a Queen. She was a wise and kindly Queen, and she loved her subjects. Saddened at the pain and suffering of her people she decided to send messengers to help them in their lives. To each messenger she said: “You are my chosen messenger and the message I shall give to you is a special message. The future peace and happiness of my land and its people depends upon you. My message is simple and complex; timely and timeless; personal and universal. Guard my message; never forget it; teach it to your children, lest anything happen to you and my message be lost.” The Queen gave roughly the same message to each messenger; but she met with each messenger individually, and inevitably the Queen would vary the message slightly each time. To be honest, we don’t know whether this was deliberate or accidental. Perhaps she felt that it would be dangerous to entrust the entirety of his message to just one person. Perhaps she really wanted to transmit messages that were slightly different from each other, thinking from the very beginning that each messenger and each message would contribute something unique to the welfare of her people. […]

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