This is the 9th entry in the Bronfman Big Idea Series. Finalist proposals from Yehuda Kurtzer and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach will be joining the series next week, along with other creative and interesting proposals. Please keep them coming. I love to hear these great ideas!
About the Author
Anita Diamant is the author of 10 books, including the bestselling The Red Tent, Good Harbor, and The Last Days of Dogtown (all fiction), as well as 7 handbooks on Jewish living: Choosing a Jewish Life, How to Be a Jewish Parent, Living a Jewish Life, The New Jewish Baby Book, The New Jewish Wedding, Pitching My Tent, and Saying Kaddish, How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead and Mourn as a Jew.
She is also the co-founder of a Boston area mikveh called Mayyim Hayyim: Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center. (I’ve been and it’s great. If you live in the Boston area or plan on a visit, it’s worth your while to look it up.)
I am honored to be able to include Ms. Diamant in The New Jew’s Bronfman Big Idea Series.
If you ever wanted an enticing teaser, this synopsis is it. The premise is here. We’ll have to stay tuned to the February 24th symposium to learn more.
By Anita Diamant
“Enough with the wagon-circling and the hand-wringing.
There has never been a better time to be Jewish. I believe that we are at the beginning of an entirely new iteration of Judaism, bursting with ideas and possibilities, music and art, wisdom and laughter, scholarship and movies and holiness.
I like to call this unfolding chapter of Jewish history Minhag America.
The title comes from a famous prayer book published in 1856 by Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, who dreamed of uniting all of American Jewry with a single siddur (prayer book.) Clearly, that was doomed to fail and fail it did.
I borrow Rabbi Wise’s title — not to unite or paper over the differences and variations in American Jewish practice — but as an umbrella to describe our Judaism, which is so undeniably, itchily alive.
There are various ways to parse Jewish history. From Biblical to Rabbinic. From Haskalah/Hasidism to Modern to Post-modern. And now after a little more than 350 years on the North American continent, we have embarked upon a thrilling, not to say risk-free leap into the next. We are living through changes as profound and unpredictable as those presented by Rabbinic Judaism when it first emerged. The end of the Temple cult must have seemed like the end of the Jewish world. But our ancestors did not sit in the dust; they chose life, which means choosing change.
Minhag America is in excellent health, nurtured by the notion of life-long universal Jewish learning, strengthened by the full participation of women, challenged and enriched by the arts, trumpeted and shaped by ever-expanding forms of communication and culture. American Judaism is self-confident and unapologetic and growing in unpredictable directions. My project is to describe, elucidate, celebrate, and sell this idea to the Jews.”
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