I seriously doubt the old rule, “No religion or politics at the dinner table,” was coined by anyone Jewish.
Still, people get a little nervous when you start talking about God outside the usual venues. Ask someone what they believe, and they want to know why you’re asking, your motivations and maybe what you’re trying to sell (or about to yell).
But we’re going to ask. And I promise you we’re not selling anything.
On Wednesday, September 21, we’re hosting The G-d Project, organized by Punk Torah. The idea is to talk to Jews today, all across North America and Europe, about their views on God and spirituality. They’ll be filming brief interviews with anyone who shows up. (Want to be part of this international documentary? Information, plus day and evening filming times, are here.)
Plenty of ink gets spilled over who is a Jew and who is not because they are “doing it wrong” in some way. We often fracture our community (-ies) until we are only surrounded by those who believe and practice exactly as we do. I think this documentary is doing something to act against that trend, simply by wanting everyone’s voice – those anywhere on the cultural/secular to religious spectrum, different ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities, etc.
There is more overlap than we imagine, even among those Jews who we believe to be quite different. And among those within a given group, there is more diversity than we’d guess.
We wanted The G-d Project here at the J because it follows our belief that there isn’t only one “Jewish” identity, and that the diversity of our contemporary Jewish society is something to be celebrated, not just tolerated.
We offer some speaking prompts for those who want them. One asks how you live your Jewish life. I love this question. I think there are many people whose answers wouldn’t include, “Going to shul.” I’m usually one of those people.
Much of my Jewish identity has to do with social justice. My background in activism is a direct, conscious extension of my Jewish beliefs and family, as are my decades of being a kosher vegetarian. My “Jewish life” includes helping to gather our community, speaking up for those who can’t, and consuming favorite foods that only have names in Yiddish (which are of course tied to family and history). But it hasn’t included regular or even semi-regular attendance at services in many -many- years.
Now on the flip side, I grew up in a heavily Jewish area in Chicago; attended Hebrew school from the time I could walk, up through high school; and I’m pretty comfortable in a Conservative prayer service.
Still, depending on who is at the other end of a given conversation, I’m often either seen as ridiculously religious, or a “bad” Jew. Neither is correct. I don’t think anyone is either of those things.
Is God part of this conversation? Sure. But we’ll have to have a discussion about definitions first…
In two weeks, people will be coming in to the building to have those conversations about Jewish spirituality, in all its forms and definitions. There will be no wrong answers.