Thursday, March 31, 2011

From #Tribefest to #BAYT: A call to elevate...

The month started with an interesting look at where the Jewish religion may be heading today. At Tribefest in Las Vegas organized by members of the various federations of North America, Jewish identity, the acceptance of Punk Jews and others like them, among the traditional streams of Judaism was a prominent theme.

Punk Jews like you or I hold a strong religious belief in their heritage. The difference between us is that they choose to express their level of spirituality in unique and unconventional ways, often against the grain of what the age-old institutions deem appropriate.

When the article was printed in The CJN, the focus was primarily on creative Americans. When the question was posed to Evan Kleinman producer of the Punk Jews documentary how far the influence of Punk Jews had reached, Kleinman admitted to having received e-mails from Vancouver, Toronto as well as parts of Europe.Groups of young Jews in various cities were all messaging that they, like their American counterparts had similar stories to share and were looking for an event like Chulent to come north or go across the pond.

For Punk Jews Chulent is not the traditional stew, rather a weekly gathering at a Synagogue in New York where the diverse group of Jews gather to sing, dance, rap, share art and have fun.

Synagogues here and in the United States are clamoring to fill their seats, as they watch their memberships decline. Last week, Rabbi Josh Blass spoke at BAYT - the third candidates for the vacated senior rabbi position. All of the rabbis interviewed thus far have echoed essentially the same message of BAYT's members, namely that institutional Judaism has put itself in a tightly-packed box. Each synagogue accepts members who follow a certain level of observance. The modern orthodox community in Toronto, at least those at BAYT, are adopting the stance that it would likely be beneficial in today’s world to try opening its doors to those less frum than themselves. This effort reflects a push to reach out to the un-affiliated and create a more welcoming space to the kinds of Jews outside their mainstream congregants.

One of the top spokespeople for the Punk Jews documentary Y-Love, the first African-American Orthodox Jewish hip-hop artist, made this very strong lasting impression with just four words "Unity elevates, division destroys".

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