Rabbi Moffic writes that we should ask “As Reform Jews, how can we best live out our principles and bring more American Jews and their families into the synagogue?” This question sets up a dichotomy between the “we” who are concerned with how to bring people into synagogues—presumably Jewish professionals and other leaders—and the “they” who need to be brought in, whom he describes as “the vast majority of American Jews who do not speak Hebrew." Where is the place for Jewishly educated laypeople in Rabbi Moffic’s vision of Reform Jewish community?
New York [sic -- I didn't include a city, and I guess this was the last address they had for me]
Thank you for your careful reading and parsing of my essay. My intent was not to set up a dichotomy between professional and lay Jews. Since I imagine that most of the readers of Eilu V’Eilu are synagogue members, I directed the essay toward the affiliated. While one does not need to be a synagogue member in order to be a good Jew, I believe that synagogue membership is essential for every person who cares about and is committed to the Jewish community. I also hope that all members of Reform synagogues do become educated in Jewish practices and ideals. Even those who know Hebrew, however, can and still do appreciate saying some prayers in English. A greater Jewish education does not automatically translate, I think, into more traditional observance and worship.
I really thought I was pitching a softball. If he had a vision of the role of educated laypeople, this was his chance to lay it out. Is there really no more compelling reason to join a synagogue than that it's "essential for every person who cares about and is committed to the Jewish community", i.e. "because I said so"? And I've already said that I don't care what "more traditional" means; however, a greater Jewish education does translate into making more independent decisions, and into a feeling of "I don't belong here" in an environment that is explicitly geared to those with little or no education.