7/11/19

Finding Your Existentialist Judaism - Your Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for July 2019

Your Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for July 2019

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

These days I am increasingly unsure of the nature of my Judaism — my religious identity. I know for sure that I am a Jew. Both my parents were Jewish. And I do observe the Jewish festivals and Sabbaths, but now not so rigorously or in accord with any single denomination. I find it more and more difficult to define my affiliation with any specific organized Jewish group. Some of my friends politely tell me that I need to decide where I stand and conform to the beliefs and standards of one of the forms of Judaism. I just don’t know that I can do that anymore. I do want to explore Judaism philosophically, but I don’t know where to start. What is your advice?

Drifting in Demarest


Dear Drifting,

Most folks cannot tolerate too much ambiguity. They look for certainty. It sounds like you are living with uncertainty in your identification with Judaism. And while in our society it is rare for people to overtly butt into other people’s lives and life choices, some of your friends must sense your unease. That’s why they are chiming in that you need to decide.

It is reasonable for people to want to know where their friends and relatives stand regarding Judaism. And they want a label to name your choice and to make the identification clear: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, chasidic, Lubavitch; and in Israel there are category labels like dati, chiloni, Dati Leumi, charedi.

7/7/19

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing the 19th Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy (aleha hashalom).

We miss her so very much. She would have loved to see the progress of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and take pride in all of their accomplishments. She would have loved to read books to her great-grandchildren and to watch them play and grow.

She was born in NYC and attended the public schools in Washington Heights. She watched from her classroom window as they built the George Washington Bridge.

She graduated from Hunter High School, Hunter College and went on to a career in public service at the OPA and then into the field education. Together with my dad, she founded the Park East Day School when my father was rabbi at the Park East Synagogue, then called Congregation Zichron Ephraim. She subsequently taught in NYC public schools for many years.

She is interred on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Her beautiful memorial photo site is here.