These are the questions… Your answers?

by Arliene Botnick, October 28, 2021

How would you answer these questions?

  1. Judaism is based on three fundamental principles: God, Torah and Israel (the land and the people). Discuss each of these principles and its centrality to Jewish life.
  2. “More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.” (Echad Ha’am ). The main values of Shabbat are Kedushah (holiness), Menuchah (rest) and Oneg (joy). How have you attempted to experience these values? Which rituals have you found useful in this quest? Which Shabbat rituals would you like to experience in the future?
  3. And the final question! You are learning and living Judaism in a Reform community. How do you view the tension between observing the mitzvot in a traditional manner and the reform principles of informed choice and personal autonomy? What are some of the mitzvot that you include in your personal observance?

The above difficult and challenging questions are all part of the final take home exam that those choosing Judaism have to answer before they can meet with the Beit Din, the group of three rabbis who discuss with the candidates their answers in order to affirm their dedication to joining the Jewish people, to becoming part of our kehillah (community). I have spoken about our Jewish information class on other occasions, but it is so important to understand the lengthy and demanding process that our potential new members go through in order to become part of Solel. They study over the course of 30 weeks a heterogenous list of Jewish topics, including the holidays, lifecycle events, Jewish history, theology and Hebrew. They are expected to attend services on a regular basis and have regular meetings with their sponsoring Rabbi, Rabbi Pollack. At the conclusion of the course, they answer the above questions; they do a review quiz of all the material they have studied; they are questioned at the Beit Din; and if they are male and it is medically safe, they have to be either ritually circumcised or if already circumcised, a much less invasive procedure called ‘hatafat dam’ (a drop of blood). The final step involves immersing in the Mikvah. At that point, they are full and welcomed members of our community.

Solel has been blessed over these many years with a significant number of members that have chosen to join the Jewish people. They study, they get involved, and they commit themselves and take very seriously their Jewish identity. Those choosing Judaism have various motivations. It may be that their partner is Jewish. It may be, that in tracing their ancestry, they have found Jewish roots. It may be that within them they have what is called the ’pintela Yid’, that little drop of Jewishness in their very soul that draws them to become part of our people.

Once they have become part of our community, many of them stay not only as members, but they become leaders of our community. They become members of our board, active leaders on our many committees, teachers in our school. As we look to Solel‘s future, we have to continue to welcome, to embrace and to be thankful for those who have chosen to join us. They make up a significant proportion of our congregation and we are blessed because of that. In some cases, they may be the only ones in their family that have made this journey to Judaism, but the beauty of that reality is that their families are supportive, often very involved themselves and they understand what it means to be a Jew. These non-Jewish partners also are a blessing to our congregation. They attend our services. They help wherever possible and many of them have knowledge and Jewish experience that is truly laudable.

Solel, like so many congregations, must continue to welcome all those who want to support us, who want to be part of us, who want to convert or who joyfully share their homes with someone who is already Jewish. If you know of a person who might like to join the Jewish information class or who might want more information about it, please contact Rabbi Pollack or me. Our doors are open. We do not proselytize, but we are more than willing to educate and welcome.

Jews make up only 1/4 of 1% of the world population. We need more Jews! Our future depends on it, and I am hopeful that our future will be richer and fuller because, like our patriarch and matriarch Abraham and Sarah, we will leave our tent open. Like Rebecca, we will hurry to feed the stranger (and even his camels). Like the Israelites at Sinai, we will stand beside those that were there to accept the Brit (the covenant with God) and those who are now choosing to stand with us to affirm that covenant.

Keyn Yehi Ratzon … May it be God’s Will!

Filed under: Educator's Message

« Read more articles