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A Jewish Agenda For The New Millennium Is Proposed

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 1999

"Regardless of which calendar you live by, the shift to the year 2000 carries with it an opportunity to think about the future," declares Rabbi Rami Shapiro, writing in Tikkun (Nov.–Dec. 1999).  

As part of that thinking process, Shapiro, who is rabbi of Temple Beth Or and director of the Sh’ma Center for Jewish Meditation in Miami, Florida, presents a number of items to be added to "the Jewish agenda for the new millennium.’ Among his suggestions:  

"The end of ‘non-Jews.’ There is no such thing as a ‘non-Jew.’ There are Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, secularists, atheists, and any number of other identities, but no one identifies him or herself as a ‘non-Jew.’ If we Jews are to enter into meaningful dialogue with the multiform faiths and philosophies of the world, we must strike the word ‘non-Jew’ from our vocabulary; we must cease defining people by what they are not, and begin to understand them for what they are."  

"The end of denominations. God commanded us to be holy, not Orthodox or reform. There are only two kinds of Jews: serious and not serious...Serious Jews, from the most halachic to the most humanist, share a love of and commitment to Jewish civilization that can form the basis for real dialogue and cooperation. Let us redirect our energies, financial and spiritual, away from denominational competition and toward creative cooperation among serious Jews."  

"A simpler liturgy. The siddur, essentially an anthology of creative liturgical expression, is now a script for lengthy and repetitive services. We need to focus on praying, not prayers; on opening to God, not reading every page of the book. We need to create new liturgy and service style that effectively blends body, heart, mind, and soul in a celebration of God and godliness."  

"Mainstreaming the mystical. There are three fundamental facets to Judaism: culture, ethics and spirituality. For the past fifty years we have emphasized the first often at the expense of the last, and...we have failed to make Jewish practice compelling....We must reclaim the inner life of Judaism...We have to speak powerfully of the soul, the inner life of mystical awakening. We have to link...care of the soul with...care of the world, so that the false dichotomy of soul and society is Shattered..."  

"Reclaiming Jesus. Jesus the Jew, as opposed to Jesus the Christ, is the most influential Jew of all time. Yet we have allowed the horrors perpetrated in his name to prevent us from claiming him as one of our own. We need to enter the debate on the historical Jesus, adding to the authentic picture of Jesus as a first-century Jewish mystic, reformer and healer. We need to help the world understand not the religion about Jesus, but the religion of Jesus, the religion to which we have remained true for thousands of years."

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