Thursday, October 06, 2005

TWAJ: Actions and words

What does this time of year mean for the Jewish community? Of course it's the moment when we reflect on the year and our misdeeds, and resolve to try harder the next year, if Hashem in his wisdom and mercy grants us a place in the Book of Life. But just as we repent as a community for the sins of the individual, what more can we pledge to do as a community and carry out as individuals?

Rabbi G unwittingly went a long way to explaining the malaise in Diaspora Jewry during a drasha on Rosh Hashanah. In answering a question from Freedmanslife reader "Sweden", he said:

"In the days of the Temple, worship and religious practice were very different. There were fewer words and much more action. Today, the opposite is true; more words and less action."

This sums up brilliantly the difficulties we face today, in a religion that has evolved so much that it is almost unrecognisable from its origins. Even if the Temple were reinstated and every Jew in the world found his way to Israel, we would not return to this. I'm not wholly in favour of doing so, as I'm not a fan of animal sacrifices, whirling chickens above my head, sending goats into the desert to die etc.

But this doesn't mean that we should replace the very physical with mere abstracts, recollections of our past. In the same way as we have evolved the content of our prayer, the context has changed too. We live in an ever more secularising society, one which in the UK at least has become rather nihilistic. In a future posting, TWAJ will look at what it means to be a "light unto the nations" but suffice to say that in this period of repentance and introspection, we should all be thinking about what our communities can do to demonstrate some higher moral values and how we as individuals should espouse them in our daily lives.

In the coming year, TWAJ will not just be a dumping ground for new ideas, but will form a cohesive and structured plan for action on how to transform Anglo-Jewry into the community we - and the country as a whole, though perhaps they don't know it yet - want and need it to be.

Hopefully this will be the year when the institutional talking-shops of our community stop with the platitudes and start with the hard decisions. Let's have a Board of Deputies led by someone the community actually voted for. Let's have a Chief Rabbi who can be articulate and inspiring without the dayanim censoring him. Let's have a UJIA that trusts the recipients of its funds to invest according to their own preferences, not a spin-doctored secret masterplan. Let's have a United Synagogue that dispenses with outdated practices with no halachic grounding. Let's have a BICOM and a community that stands up for Israel, pro-actively, publicly, proudly.

Above all, let's as individuals stop talking about how bad it all is and start acting to make it better.

This posting is in memory of Jonny Fraser, who showed that actions speak louder than words.

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