Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Shockingly Honest and Terribly Troubling Piece on Mark Zuckerberg and Reform Judaism

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg's Facebook feed pointed me to a saddening article in the Forward that notes Mark Zuckerberg's public abandonment of Reform Judaism as a jumping-off point to worry about the future of Reform Judaism. Why does a prominent son of devoted Reform Jews, after the full regiment of Reform Jewish education, Bar Mitzvah, confirmation, and even a trip to Israel, now classify himself as "atheist"? She goes on to wonder about what this phenomenon says about the entire denomination. Some critical quotes:
We failed Zuckerberg and will continue to fail young people like him because the pluralistic theologies of Reform Judaism articulated since the 1960s make it difficult to grasp what we Reform Jews believe on any given issue. Our faith is too amorphous. 
Translation: Young people have no idea what we believe because we don't really believe much of anything specific. Far more upsetting though is this:
Also, as a Reform rabbi, it would be hard for me to tell a congregant not to date anyone who was not already Jewish. I would urge congregants to talk about their commitment to Judaism with any potential romantic interest and make it clear from the beginning that Judaism is an important and hopefully central part of their life. But it is simply impractical to tell single people to restrict their dating gaze to those who are of the Jewish faith. Even if we wanted to say such a thing, the reality in our congregations would make such exhortations antiquated and irrelevant. 
I found it truly shocking that a Reform rabbi doesn't feel comfortable telling a Jewish congregant that it's ideal to date someone within the Jewish faith. Moreover, to even suggest such a thing flies in the face of what's happening in the pews, and would make the rabbi "antiquated and irrelevant." Really? Methinks that the rabbi speaks out of both sides of her mouth: on the one hand she calls her faith too amorphous. She wants to stand for something. But at the same time, she won't even stand up in shul and discourage practices that lead to intermarriage. And then she wonders why her young people are bolting from the shul.
It's not really much of a wonder. And it doesn't leave me with much hope that the next Zuckerberg will find any more reason to remain a Reform Jew - or for that matter, stay Jewish at all.