As we continue our year of “Exploring Difference,” our focus in November is on Judaism, an ancient monotheistic religion rooted in the land known as Israel. In her book, “Here All Along,” author Sarah Hurwitz describes Judaism not simply as a religion but as a “story of a large, diverse family.” While committed to monotheism, understandings of the Divine, interpretations of texts, and choices on rituals and practices vary widely over time and place. Indeed, the practice of wrestling and debating is part of the story of Judaism.
On Sunday, November 6, we welcomed Student Rabbi Heather Renetzky from Temple Shir Tikva to lead our congregation in songs and to talk with Rev. Stephanie and the congregation about Judaism. When asked the “simple” question of “What is Judaism?” she echoed Hillel the Sage who counsels, “Love your neighbor as yourself and the rest is commentary. Now go study.” To hear more of the conversation or music, watch here: https://youtu.be/otw3d2weyj0?t=111
While ancient Judaism centered on the Temple in Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. led to a debate among the Rabbis (teachers) on how to reimagine Judaism centered on text and in other rituals. This enabled Judaism to travel geographically such that despite centuries of oppression, the story of Judaism remains global and vibrant today.
Unfortunately, hatred and violence toward the Jewish family has also traveled through time and space. Antisemitism is again in the news, from national stories of rapper Ye to the nearby incident in Acton on November 5. As U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstad recently told NPR, “Antisemitism is the longest or the oldest hatred, as historians sometimes say.”
As Unitarian Universalists, we support a religiously diverse world and denounce the bigoted violence found in antisemitism. By choosing to learn more about different religions, and most importantly, by building relationships with our interfaith neighbors, our hope is to support the multiple ways people engage questions of faith and meaning in our shared world.