Reform Judaism/why should I join a synagogue
Hi Eli, I am disillusioned about Judaism and synagogues in general. I have been to a few and joined one (orthodox and non-orthodox)and this is what I have found:
lots of politics and "important" people and more focus on finances than discussing Judaism
people being disdainful towards people who are not already observant (especially Orthodox rabbis)
rabbis that are totally out of touch with ordinary people
Jews who are disrespectful to non-Jews
supporting the state of Israel which oppresses arabs and other people while kvetching that no one loves us
synagogue fees that almost require you to raise a loan to pay for them
a focus on the minutiae of Jewish Law rather than on being kind human beings (what's the point of kashrut if that "kosher' person is unpleasant to others? That's not 'kosher')
only really caring about Jews and no other people.
Isn't it completely understandable why Jews go to other religions that are more welcoming, more down-to-earth, and more respectful of other cultures?
I respectfully ask you to give me some reasons why I should stay with Judaism and not 'jump ship' like many before me?
Have a joyful and restful Shabbos and thank you for considering my email.
first and foremost, "staying with Judaism" is really not a choice for you if you were born Jewish. If you're born a Jew, you will continue to be a Jew, it's a part of your DNA, literally. I can address your concerns here, and let me know what you think once you've had a chance to review.
Firstly, from your questions I see that you're unsure why you should be a part of a synagogue where people are disrespectful to you, where fees are high, and where there is hypocrisy. Well - I couldn't agree more. I wouldn't want to be a part of such a synagogue either!! Not sure where you encountered such a horrendous attitude, but I too suggest you steer clear of that, because it's not Judaism. Judaism is about learning, about caring for one another, Jew and non-Jew alike, and about accepting everyone's level of observance without judging. If it weren't - why, I would have been probably kicked out of my synagogue many times over. If I may suggest, please check out a Chabad congregation. There, you are sure to encounter people of all phases and levels of observance, people who are non-judgmental, and kindness and warmth for all nations. In fact, we make it a point in our Chabad shul to say a specific prayer for all non-Jewish nations during the Shabbos service, to make sure we acknowledge that none would survive without one another.
Fees in a congregation are almost certainly high in many cases. However, they are not set in stone - in fact, if you meet with a synagogue director and tell them you can only afford a small portion of the fees - they'll accept you and won't judge either. If not - that place isn't where you want to be for many reasons, not just fees. Sadly though, it's a reality that a non-profit organization must pay its bills. In churches, I'm not sure how it's done, but everyone has a P&L, and members are a lifeblood of every congregation.
Finally, the synagogues where rabbis are out of touch with ordinary people are again not the place to be. Rabbis are supposed to be a part of the community, which means they need to understand the issues and problems that affect each one of us, observant and non-observant alike. If you don't have respect for a rabbi - stay away from that synagogue. Same goes for people that attend it. Treat it like you would any social circle - if you are not aligned with the principles, you probably won't find the circle valuable.
A Chabad synagogue, in my experience, has been a very welcoming, warm, kind place, where every Jew is accepted and treated the same. I highly recommend you check out your local Chabad (if you don't know how to find it, let me know and I'll point you in a right direction).
With that, there are things you should also demonstrate, because every relationship is a two-way street. Firstly, a healthy level of respect towards your own religion is something expected of you when you show up at a synagogue. Remember, people around you could be learning from you as well - so stay away from cheeseburgers and shrimp cocktails if you are in a religious setting, for example. Also, your attitude towards Israel is surprising. As a Jew, you surely must know a little bit of the history surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Along with the fact that Israel does nothing towards the arabs but defend herself, Israel is also the only country in the Middle East where arabs can live happily, have a right to have jobs, own real estate, and conduct business - without paying a penny in taxes or being forced to join the armed forces. Also in Israel, arabic women are free from the limitations that Muslim states put on them, they can work, choose who to marry, go to colleges, and be fully participant in the society around them. So I highly recommend you refresh your knowledge of history of Israel, and you will see that Israel wishes no harm for her Arabic neighbors. At the time when the entire Israel is united in prayer for well-being of its 3 teenagers kidnapped by the Arab terrorists, Hamas and Hezbollah are praising these kidnappings. I find this unacceptable, and so will any other peace-loving person, Jew or non-Jew.
In closing, no, it is NOT understandable why Jews would go to other religions. True Judaism is joyful, happy, filled with love and care, and most importantly, constructed on the solid foundation of acting in the image of our single Creator. Jews who abandon their religion in favor of any form of idolatry (believing a man is god is also idolatry by the way for us Jews) fail to live up to their responsibility to the world to carry HaSHem's name into the nations. Some Jews leave because they have not had the intestinal fortitude to learn more about their roots and take responsibility for their actions in this world (because it's a lot easier to assume that someone else "paid the price"). I pray that you are not one of those Jews. I pray that you take the time, take the effort, and discover true Judaism, and you will be richly rewarded by tremendous relationships you develop, oustanding wisdom of true rabbis, and love of the community you choose to join. It is about YOUR choices, David, nobody else's. Stay away from people who twist the meaning of Judaism (G-d knows there were multitudes of them throughout centuries, both Jews and non-Jews), keep your company clean with people who love true Judaism and its core principles, who study and follow the commandments (keeping kosher is pretty important, but treating your fellow human with loving kindness is also up there on HaShem's list of priorities) - and you will feel at home with your divine gift of being a part of this great nation.