Orthodox Judaism works for a lot of people. It’s vibrant, exciting, meaningful, and many are proud to live a life committed to Orthodox Judaism. Every version of Orthodox Judaism enjoys this success for the vast majority of its adherents. But every version also has its share of people who have bad experiences. The negative experience could be social, religious, theological, cultural, anything.
Of the people with negative associations towards Orthodoxy, there are two categories. One group will leave, the other will stay. What follows, is not written to convince people to stay. This is an attempt to help people who want to stay, or people who want to help those trying to stay.
I recommend a three part process that has been successful for some people.
There is an ever-present tension between modernity and tradition, especially for Orthodox Jews in America. American culture places significance on tradition, yet manages to remain optimistic about new ideas.
It’s easy to be a fundamentalist. It’s easy to say everything new is wrong, or everything old is antiquated and bad. But I don’t believe that we should be looking for what’s easier. We should welcome the challenges of reconciling tradition and modernity. There is great beauty in using the new to improve the old, and the old to guide the new, without relying on extremes.
Last night I hosted a screening of the Noah Movie followed by a discussion about the film. I loved it. We enjoyed great food, great company, and a great overall experience. But that’s not enough why I loved the event so much. I loved last night because I think the experience addressed a fundamental struggle to American Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) Judaism.