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Nu? Why Be Jewish?

Nu? Why Be Jewish?

29 November 2011

‘Why should I be Jewish’ and ‘why should I not marry my non-Jewish mate’ were the two questions posed by Rabbi Kennard when addressing a crowd of Mt Scopus College parents on Jewish continuity, September 22. His responses and subsequent explanations were, as always, eloquent and simple: Because being Jewish is beautiful and true.

Photo: Credit to Peter Haskin/AJN file

I have tried to capture Rabbi Kennard’s key points below and also embedded the You-Tube links in 3 parts of his similar talk to the ZFA Educators’ 2010 Conference. Nothing though, quite makes up for not seeing this talk in person.

Rabbi Kennard stated it is not sufficient (or logical) to tell your children to stay Jewish because it’s the longest surviving monotheistic religion; because so many people have suffered; or because they can identify with Israel. With the advent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign and the Palestinian situation, many no longer see Israel as the underdog.

It is also not sufficient to moan about being Jewish as Jews are so apt to do:  moaning about school fees, the cost of kosher meat and goods, the length of Shabbat service or the detrimental effects matzah has on digestion! We need to stop moaning and start telling our children what is so amazing about being Jewish.

Rabbi Kennard said that Einstein, a fellow Jew, had a passion for justice, a passion for learning, a desire for independence, all key to what is so amazing about being Jewish:

  • Jews give more to charity than any other group, [i]&[ii] based on our concern for justice.
  • Jewish kids and schools regularly top the state because of our passion for learning. In fact the core of our religion is learning about Judaism. It is felt, ‘to be a learned Jew is essential but to be an ignorant Jew, is terrible!’
  • Jews have stayed as a distinct identity for 3000 years. We are the oldest surviving ethnic group other than the Chinese, who have had their own country and although conquered many times, we have continued. Our independence is such that even after 2000 years, we came home to Israel; no other nation has ever done that!

Jewish people can be proud of these facts and of so much more. Our weekly Friday night dinners, Shabbat and sense of family are part of a great social institution that religious and non-religious Jews alike follow.

We can be proud that our religion codifies being good into a system. The mitzvoth (good deeds) guide our lives and decisions. For example, Judaism tells us how much money to donate, to whom to donate it and for what causes. This is a fabulous system that simplifies the complexities of life.

Judaism is also about sacrifice which we must be prepared to make and teach our children. Judaism teaches us that just because every door is open, it does not mean every door should be stepped through. We are not supposed to ‘have it all,’ we must know our limitations for it makes us a better, more thoughtful and humble people. The limitations imposed by observing Jewish law teaches us that sometimes we must say NO especially in today’s world and the way many parent.

The other reason we should stay Jewish is because on some level what we believe is true. Culture alone isn’t enough on which to base a religion. Being Jewish is not a just a fad, a culture, a religion. Judaism is based upon truth so learn it, understand it and get it, get that Judaism must be preserved to guide our youth and ourselves to inform the choices we make.

Rabbi Kennard is the Principal of Mount Scopus College and would be happy to present his talk to your organisation. You can contact him via Mount Scopus College.

Rabbi Kennard’s talk to the 2011 ZFA Educators’ Conference can be found here on You Tube:

There has been much discussion of late on Jewish continuity due to the high rate of intermarriage and assimilation into the general community. Professor Andrew Markus, FASSA released the:

Professor Markus is a Pratt Foundation Research Professor of Jewish Civilisation at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University. Click on the link above to download a copy of the report.




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