9 (more) things to know about Reform Judaism

A recent column entitled “9 Things to know about Reform Jews” reminded me how little so many people actually know about Reform Judaism. Written as a way of highlighting the fact that thousands of Reform Jews are gathering in Orlando for the Biennial, the column offers a few interesting tidbits, but fails to deliver on what really makes Reform Judaism compelling. Reading the article reminded me what a shame it is that there’s such widespread misunderstanding and ignorance when it comes to Reform Judaism. Hopefully this response to the column will help to in some small way advance our collective understanding. Before delving in to my 9 (more) things to know, I want to say that Reform Judaism shares much with every other major denomination of Judaism. Reform Judaism is committed to honoring the Jewish past, securing the Jewish future, and creating a vibrant and compelling Jewish present. However, for those that want to understand some of the unique characteristics of Reform Judaism I humbly submit the following:

              Reform Judaism is committed to the idea of informed choice. All Jews make choices when it comes to Judaism. Any Jew that tells you otherwise isn’t being intellectually honest or truly looking in the mirror. Jewish tradition is too vast and all- encompassing for any person to fulfill every mitzvah and observe every aspect of it at every moment. Whether we admit it or not, embrace it or not, the fact is: all Jews make choices. As Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf (z”l) put it, each of us is walking on “Judaism Street.” Each of us walks, according to our ability, our interest, our need. Each at our own pace. Each to the beat of our own drum. The significant contribution of Reform Judaism when it comes to the fact that all Jews make choices is the idea that our choices should be based on knowledge, on study, and on reflection. We shouldn’t make choices by default or out of convenience. A choice isn’t a choice if it’s based on ignorance or if it’s mindless. Reform Judaism’s emphasis on informed choice places upon each person the imperative to own his/her choices and asks each of us to be able to explain the rationale behind the choices that we make as we walk Judaism Street.

            Reform Judaism affirms personal autonomy without sacrificing a sense of obligation. Though we live in relation to a Commanding Presence, the fact is that even the ancient sages understood that free will is granted. Free will means that, at the end of the day, we are responsible for our actions and our lives. Reform Judaism teaches that it’s a convenient ruse to pretend that Judaism requires us to do certain things and that we have no say in the matter. While Jewish tradition is overflowing with mitzvot that address all aspects of our lives, the existential reality that each of us knows in our hearts is that the only voice that can truly command us is our own. Only on the basis of the free exercise of our will can we choose to live in relation to commandment. To deny the truth of personal autonomy is to minimize the purposefulness with which many of us live out our Jewish obligations.

           Reform Judaism listens to and speaks with the Prophetic Voice. At the heart of the Hebrew Bible are the teachings of the prophets. Built into our sacred scripture is the idea that truth is more important than power. Built into the DNA of the Jewish people is the necessity of social critique wherever hypocrisy and abuse reside. Many people associate Reform Judaism with Tikkun Olam (“mending the world”) but few understand that our commitment to social justice is anchored in our understanding of the role and the teachings of the prophets rather than some vaguely humanistic desire to help those less fortunate. Currently the work of the Religious Action Center and the Israel Religious Action Center is the most compelling example of how the Prophetic Voice speaks through Reform Judaism today.

            The Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion isn’t only the oldest rabbinical seminary in North America, it’s one of the greatest centers of Jewish learning in the world. Though I’m an alum of HUC-JIR and therefore somewhat biased, I think it is fair to say that, when taken together, the faculty of the 4 campuses of HUC-JIR are unparalleled in the depth and breadth of their Judaic knowledge. Though many universities have exceptional Jewish Studies departments, the sheer amount of faculty and diversity of faculty scholarship at HUC-JIR deserves special recognition. The College-Institute is central to the Reform Movement’s ability to deliver on the principle of “informed choice.”

           Reform Judaism has many “haters.” It’s important to know that lots of Jews act as if Reform Judaism is a dirty word. They blame many (sometimes all) of the woes facing the Jewish people squarely on the shoulders of Reform Judaism. What’s sad and unfortunate is that most of these detractors have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. They’re simple spouting dogma. And they’re slowly (or quickly) untangling the threads of Jewish unity that are already frayed in today’s world. There’s plenty to critique within Reform Judaism, and healthy debate is a good thing. But look at any “comment section” on a Jewish topic and eventually the conversation will trend toward the deligitimization of Reform Judaism. Any serious student of Judaism should be able to offer a nuanced and thoughtful assessment of Reform Judaism rather than simply casting stones.

           Reform Judaism is committed to ritual and liturgical innovation. The prayers and rituals that have been handed down to us by our ancestors are, for the most part, a beautiful inheritance. That the spiritual and religious sensibilities of Jews who lived thousands of years ago still speak so authentically today is a testament to the greatness of our sages. But I don’t think the rabbis who wrote those words ever thought that they had the final say in the matter. From a spiritual and religious point of view it doesn’t make sense to assume that a new prayer, new ritual, or new approach to a ritual is anything other than healthy. Similarly, the prayers and traditions left to us by our ancestors should be subject to the editorial hand of us, the inheritors. Assuming of course that we honor their words and their ideas whenever possible. By taking a healthily progressive approach to ritual and liturgy Reform Judaism is simply carrying on the spiritual and religious desire to give voice to the soul.

         Reform Judaism is about building, not destroying. Among the many outdated misunderstandings of Reform Judaism is the idea that Reform Judaism is about tearing down and doing away with large parts of Jewish life. Folks point to the general lack of rigorous Kashrut, the fact that many Reform Jews aren’t able to understand Hebrew, and things like this as proof. They also mistakenly think that Reform Judaism is anti- Zionist. It’s true that in an earlier era (like more than 100 years ago) Reform Judaism challenged the relevance of certain ancient ritual practices. Ritual practices were generally deemed less important (and sometimes not important at all) while ethical and intellectual precepts were elevated. This critical evaluation makes sense given the historical and sociological contexts in which Reform Judaism emerged. But for the last 50-60 years at least, Reform Judaism has come home to many of these ritual practices. That’s because Reform Jews have found new ways of relating to and finding meaning in these rituals. No aspect of Judaism is foreign to the Reform Jew assuming he or she is able to find meaning and purpose in it. Reform Jews who say, “I don’t do _____ because I’m a Reform Jew” aren’t good ambassadors of Reform Judaism. Better are those who can explain what they do and don’t do based on their understanding of Jewish tradition and how they choose to live their lives. Reform Judaism isn’t a reason, it’s an approach.

         Reform Judaism is a big tent. Just as Abraham and Sarah welcomed guests into their tent, so too does Reform Judaism. In a sometimes alienating, cold, judgmental or impersonal world, welcoming people into our faith community isn’t merely a nicety, it is a spiritual and religious obligation. The beauty of the big tent approach that Reform Judaism is striving to actualize is that it has the potential to enrich and elevate the experience for all involved. One way of measuring the depth and resilience of any expression of Judaism is how that expression responds to the challenge and opportunity of diversity. If Reform Judaism is able to deliver on the stated goal of celebrating diversity, learning from diversity, and blessing diversity, then the movement will surely thrive and flourish beyond what it currently is and be an even greater source of meaning to those of us that identify as Reform Jews.

Reform Judaism is about the “Thou Shalt.” Simply stated, Reform Judaism, like all good Judaism, is based on a fairly simple notion: Thou Shalt. Rather than simply cruising through life without ever stopping to consider one’s personal power, responsibility, potential, and ability, Reform Judaism affirms the most basic of all Jewish ideas– that we are not fully human unless we are a mensch. “Thou Shalt” means that there is a Commanding Presence that calls out to each of us and that the measure of our days resides in our desire to respond and in the content of our actions. This is an idea that I learned from Leo Baeck’s great book, This People Israel and that I think captures the essence of Reform Judaism and the essence of Judaism more generally, from Abraham to today.

So there you have it, my somewhat lengthy addendum to the column I mentioned at the beginning. In the unlikely event that you feel compelled to comment, let’s keep it civil! We’re all working toward the same goals.

Davis Goes to Birmingham

Davis Goes to Birmingham

Fifth Grade students at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School, just returned from our annual day trip to Birmingham, Alabama.  Why does Davis go to Birmingham? The easiest way to answer is by paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who responded to the same question when it was posed to him in 1963, “We go to Birmingham because injustice was there.”  We go to Birmingham to help our students understand the Civil Rights Movement and to reflect on the complicated history of the American South. We go there because, as a Reform Jewish Day School, we are committed to looking at, rather than away from, difficult topics like racism, discrimination, and segregation.

The first stop on our Birmingham trip is in many ways the most compelling and complicated one: Temple Emanu-El. Temple Emanu-El is a synagogue with a rich and celebrated history. We take our students there to reflect on the Jewish experience in Birmingham during the Civil Rights era. Rather than speaking generally about the conflicting forces at play in the Jewish community, we teach them about the extraordinary life of Rabbi Milton Grafman. Rabbi Grafman led Temple Emanu-El from 1941 until his retirement in 1975.

On the Tuesday prior to our trip to Birmingham, students and parents came to The Davis Academy for a family program. Students received name tags that said, “Rabbi Milton Grafman.” That evening we discussed and debated Rabbi Grafman’s  co-authorship of the open letter, “A Call to Unity” in which he and seven other local clergymen called civil rights demonstrations, “unwise and untimely.” We then read excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s response, the famous, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in which King criticized Rabbi Grafman and the other clergymen at great length. While the level of discourse was extremely high and the topic deeply nuanced, the adults in the room engaged the children in conversation about the many different factors at play.

Sitting in Temple Emanu-El’s historic sanctuary two days later, our students took a deeper dive into the life of Rabbi Grafman. They recalled that the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed on Sunday, September 15th, 1963 resulting in the tragic death of “four little girls.” They then learned that Erev Rosh Hashanah in 1963 fell on September 27th. Students learned that Rabbi Grafman spoke from the heart that Rosh Hashanah, with notes but not a fully written sermon. They then had a chance to offer suggestions for what Rabbi Grafman might have said to his congregation that evening. After brainstorming suggestions, we listened to an audio recording of Rabbi Grafman delivering the introductory lines of the actual sermon after which some of the students were invited to the very same bimah to read additional excerpts from Rabbi Grafman’s remarks. We processed the experience and concluded with a very special and sacred moment. Thanks to Rabbi Laila Hass of Temple Emanu-El we were able to hear not only Rabbi Grafman’s sermon, but a unique recording of Rabbi Grafman reading the names of the four little girls before the recitation of Kaddish Yatom. We rose as a congregation to recite the words of Kaddish together, not only for the four little girls, but for Rabbi Grafman as well.

From Temple Emanu-El we went to the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Civil Rights Museum. At each step of our journey we helped our students look at, rather than away from, the complex topics of racism, discrimination, and segregation. Together we thought about our obligation as Jews to help build the kind of world in which we want to live, rather than accepting the world as it is.

We went to Birmingham to learn about the injustice that had so deeply defined the city for much of its history. Along the way we learned a deeply moving Jewish story, the story of Rabbi Grafman and Temple Emanu-El. We left Birmingham with a renewed appreciation of the challenges and opportunities that we have as Jews and as Americans.

The Davis Academy’s annual trip to Birmingham is an experience that encapsulates some of the essence of what it means to be a Reform Jewish Day School. We look forward to next year’s trip when an additional seventy students will meet Rabbi Grafman and the congregation that he so courageously shepherded.

Extending the Symposium on Jewish Education

As the rabbi of The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s mechina-8th grade Reform Jewish Day School I thoroughly enjoyed reading the “Symposium on Jewish Education” at RJ.org. It’s wonderful to hear thought leaders from within and beyond the Reform movement analyzing trends, citing innovative practices, and making bold predictions about the future of Jewish education. The power of relationships, the impact of technology, the need for personal meaning, the interconnectedness of world Jewry, and the democratization of information… these are just a few of the themes that emerged across the various posts. I particularly appreciated the remarks of Rabbi David Ellenson, in his position paper submitted to the Jim Joseph Foundation (cited by Dr. Charles Edelsberg) that highlighted the ongoing centrality of Jewish schooling and suggested investing in institutions that are currently achieving great success in Jewish education so that they can continue to focus on and achieve their missions. I believe The Davis Academy, and many of our Reform Jewish Day Schools are such institutions.

The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy

Among the many ideas that warrant serious consideration when thinking about Jewish education in a Reform or liberal context is the difference between “performance” goals and “learning” goals. While this distinction has implicitly driven my own work and the work of countless colleagues, I’ve only recently acquired this specific terminology. My teacher in this area is John D’Auria, president of Teacher21. His work builds on that of renowned educational psychologist Carol Dweck.

Performance goals have to do with winning favor in the eyes of others. Winning a game, dazzling a crowd with a great guitar solo, or having a perfectly memorized Torah portion for your bar mitzvah– these are examples of performance goals. Getting an “A” on the big test is also an example of a performance goal. Performance goals have a powerful hold on us. We all want to please our parents and teachers, impress our friends and strangers, and experience the thrill that comes with performing well. The problem is that performance goals can be all consuming and distort our focus. Unfortunately, when it comes to Judaism, winning, dazzling, memorizing, and getting an “A” aren’t what it’s all about. Clear enough?

What do learning goals look like? Rather than focusing on the win, we might focus on executing the new plays that we worked on in practice all week. Rather than dazzling the crowd with our Jimi Hendrix like prowess, we might try to implement a new technique that we’ve been refining with our guitar teacher. Rather than memorizing our Torah portion we might strive to develop an appreciation for its meaning. Rather than focusing on the test, we might focus on the knowledge we’re being asked to master, evaluating whether it is of use in our lives or not. The joy of learning goals is that they are proximal, achievable, enduring, and transformative. Eventually we’ll earn the esteem of parents and teachers, friends and strangers, but we’ll do so from a much stronger and sure place.

When we focus ourselves, our students, and our communities on learning goals rather than performance goals, we are fulfilling our mandate as Reform Jewish educators.

I’m hard pressed to find a rabbinic colleague or fellow Jewish educator who favors performance goals over learning goals. The challenge is that the world around us can’t resist a great performance, and all too often couldn’t care less about great learning. Prone to anxiety and unable to resist comparison, it’s easy to sacrifice learning on the altar of performance. Many of our institutions, day schools and otherwise, are designed to make sense within this context of performance. Prospective parents are typically more concerned with test scores (performance) than they are with the depth and rigor of professional development amongst the faculty (learning). When it comes to life cycle events like b’nai mitzvah, confirmation, and beyond, congregational colleagues confess that it is difficult and sometimes impossible to migrate young adults and families away from performance and towards learning. It’s hard to be one voice speaking against the crowd.

One could argue that, from the very beginning, Reform Judaism has been counter cultural because it has always promoted learning goals over performance goals. It’s one of the reasons that bar mitzvah lost out to confirmation for so many years in Reform communities. As it has been a hallmark of our past, so too the prioritization of learning over performance must be a part of our future. Until we can demonstrate that the choice is clear, that learning must triumph over performance (or at the very least infuse and inform all our performances), then we will continue to encounter frustration as we try to achieve our many other future oriented goals.

Better than Talent

Every week The Davis Academy transitions from the busyness of school to the restfulness of Shabbat with a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony. It’s invariably a joyful affair full of singing, skits, stories, and blessings. Our whole community looks forward to Kabbalat Shabbat and many students, teachers, and parents point to Kabbalat Shabbat as an example of the “Davis Spirit.” Last week’s Kabbalat Shabbat made a huge impression on me, so I’ll share my “takeaway” from the experience.

Lately we’ve experienced a palpable surge in student and teacher creativity when it comes to planning and leading Kabbalat Shabbat. A few months ago our 3rd grade teachers and students choreographed a Micamocha flashmob. There’s been an increase in student iyyunim, supplementary songs, and themed services. Kabbalat Shabbat is no longer just about the 45 minutes of communal togetherness. It’s being integrated into class meeting time, technology lessons, recess, and other areas of the school as students and teachers are coming to expect creativity, innovation, and inspiration from one another. It’s spilling over from school into the home, where kids are rehearsing their lines, sewing their costumes, and invited grandparents and cousins to attend. Writing now, I’m stuck again by how remarkably vibrant it has become.

Which brings me to last week. A visitor to our school could have made the statement: ‘There’s a lot of talent at The Davis Academy.’ This last week the 2nd grade class that led Kabbalat Shabbat prepared a series of riddles on Jewish heroes and leaders and came dressed in full costume. A group of 5th grade students called the “Musical Mentsches” songlead most of the prayers with their guitars and drums. We enjoyed a Tubishevat skit written and directed by a 3rd grader and ‘starring’ her entire class. Additionally we heard an inspiring Dvar Torah by an 8th grader. Lastly, we were treated to a special ‘mini-concert’ by The Davis Decibelles, our middle school female vocal ensemble. You could call that a lot of talent, but I think it’s something different and better.

Talent is a tricky thing. Embedded in the notion of talent is the idea that it’s either something you’re blessed with or something you lack. While talent can be cultivated and discovered, there’s something elusive and decidedly undemocratic about talent.

What I and others experienced at Kabbalat Shabbat last week is something better than talent. We experienced creativity, imagination, passion, joy, team work, empowerment, engagement, and spirituality. Unlike talent, I believe that these capacities are precisely the kinds of things that can and should be among the most important aims of Jewish education.

Lately a few of us at Davis have been revisiting the question of what it means to be a Reform Jewish Day School (after all, there aren’t that many out there). Last Friday I was convinced that The Davis Academy is a school that inspires students to take ownership of the Jewish story– through skits, song leading, costuming, and interpreting Torah. Our students and teachers have assumed the responsibility for keeping Judaism fresh, vibrant, honest, and relevant. They’ve assumed the responsibility not only for transmitting, but for teaching, reinterpreting, and reinvigorating the broader Jewish community. While this isn’t the only answer to the question of what it means to be a Reform JDS I think it’s a key component.

Holy Ground

The opening pages of the book of Exodus, which Jews worldwide are reading this week, recall the mystical moment when Moses encounters the Burning Bush. Among the many details conveyed in the passage is the following:

God said to Moses, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” 

As I go about my days at The Davis Academy I am blessed to work with many amazing people of all ages. One of my colleagues, our 8th grade Jewish Studies teacher, has a spiritual practice that I truly admire: Whenever a student shares in a way that creates a feeling of holiness in the classroom, my colleague removes his shoes. This simple gesture acknowledges that mundane physical space can be transformed into sacred space through acts of sharing, connection, and vulnerability.

Imagine if we all removed our shoes whenever we felt that one of our students, children, friends, loved ones, or colleagues had either spoken or acted with kedusha (holiness). If we took this idea seriously many of us might end up spending most of the day in our socks– not a terrible prospect! Surely it would deepen our appreciation of the immeasurable enrichment that exists when sharing our lives with others.

Recently I received an email from a parent. Another colleague had asked this parent to reflect on the question of diversity at a Jewish day school. The question was prompted by the recognition that many prospective parents question whether Jewish day schools can have true diversity and prepare children to live in our blessedly diverse world. Her response, which I quote below, left me contemplating my socks:

         On the subject of diversity: every child is unique!  This uniqueness is not established by skin color, religious beliefs or by clothing, but by what comes from inside them.  Originally this was something that was said to me regarding uniforms. How can the kids express who they are if they all dress the same? Realizing that kids at Davis learn how to express themselves by words and actions, and cannot depend on an article of clothing to do so was very enlightening!  Most people/children seek out others like themselves when forming relationships.  At Davis, my children have found friends that are like them because of similarities in personality, not the fact that they are the same in a sea of external differences or diversity… If anyone is hesitant [to send their children to Davis] because of diversity or focus on religion, I would say then that is exactly why they should send their children.  Where diversity is something the children create from within, without losing what connects them to each other, it prepares them for whatever challenges- academic or social- they may eventually encounter.  

Each of us is daily inundated with emails, phone calls, and conversations; we’re participants in an endless social process. Hopefully amidst the ever flowing current of communication that washes over us, we can all pause to acknowledge the moments when we receive something truly special and holy. Attuning ourselves to these daily glimpses of sacred light might even make our favorite pair of shoes last a little longer. 

Shabbat Shalom! 


10 New Year’s Resolutions for Jewish Ed

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.”

1. In 2012 I will model authentic learning for my students by learning alongside them.

2. In 2012 I will do my best to treat the questions, ideas, and insights of my students with the respect they deserve.

3. In 2012 I will open my heart to receiving feedback from students, parents, colleagues, and supervisors.

4. In 2012 I will demand of myself that I go the extra step(s) helping my students and peers mature and grow.

5. In 2012 I will break down the walls of my classroom so that the outside world can infiltrate with the hopes that my classroom will then transform the outside world.

6. In 2012 I will partner with students, parents, and fellow educators in a covenant of learning with the individual student at the center.

7. In 2012 I will champion the cause of Jewish education by demanding that Jewish studies be relevant, inspiring, nourishing, engaging, and joyful.

8. In 2012 I will sing, laugh, play, dance, and chill with my students.

9. In 2012 I will view the Jewish holidays through new eyes and with renewed energy.

10. In 2012 I will bring the fullness of my humanity into my work as a Jewish educator so that I might be more fully human (loving, caring, aware, thoughtful, passionate, intentional, reflective, kind) through my work as a Jewish educator.

The Maker and the Finder

         I recently “found” a book that’s been on my bookshelf for years but that I’ve never “made” time to read.  Forty pages into Richard Rorty’s, Contingency, irony, and solidarity, my only regret is that I didn’t read it years ago when I purchased it. I’m consoled by the profound joy of reading it now. As I read I carry with me the wonderful memory of studying with Rorty as an undergraduate. I can vividly picture his always purple button down shirt (worn to each class) and can hear the sound of change jingling in his pocket– an unconscious habit that contrasted humorously with his intensely brilliant lecturing. This book is one of those books that, by the time I’m done with it, will be mostly highlighted. This means one of two things: 1) I don’t know how to highlight or, 2) it’s absolutely brilliant. Among the many highlighted passages there’s one that stands out to me at this exact moment as I think about the nature of liberal Judaism in the world today.
         In describing Nietzche’s contribution to a postmodern understanding of the contingency of selfhood, Rorty writes, “They [certain philosophers that Rorty praises] accept Nietzche’s identification of the strong poet, the maker, as humanity’s hero– rather than the scientist, who is traditionally pictured as a finder” (Rorty, 1989, p. 24).
         The maker categorically rejects the temptation to inherit. She resists the temptation to define herself using someone else’s language. She refuses to copy, to adopt, and to conform. She’d rather be a misunderstood or failed metaphor than an already dead metaphor. Novelty is her aspiration, redefinition and redescription are her aims. She strives, she smashes idols, and is relentless in her pursuit of new language to describe her selfhood and her place in the world. Unavailable to her are all previous attempts at articulating meaning– religion, philosophy, theology, metaphysics, science. If it’s been done then it cannot be made, only remade, remixed, reiterated. The maker’s task is to do something new.
        The finder seeks patterns, looks for evidence that will help evolve theory into law. She isn’t necessarily a  metaphysician, priest, or positivist, but she isn’t emphatically opposed to the idea of inherited wisdom. She remains open to the possibility that meaning is “out there” and that wisdom can be sought, heard, and integrated into the tapestry of her life.

         If liberal Judaism and Judaism generally is to survive then we need both makers and finders. 

        Judaism is fairly comfortable with finders. Our tradition teaches, hafoch bah d’chuleh bah (“turn the Torah over and over for everything is within it). Clearly the finder’s orientation sits comfortably within the paramaters of the Jewish hermeneutical tradition. When it comes to makers Judaism is decidedly more ambivalent, even antagonistic.  Hadash asur min ha-Torah (“innovation is prohibited by the Torah”)– a famous teaching of the Chatam Sofer (18th-19th century rabbi) the 18th-19th conveys this antagonism. Given Judaism’s enduring commitment to Torah and the rich traditions associated with Jewish history and practice, the question of how to embrace “makers” is both sincere and significant.
         The most obvious way of incorporating makers into the Jewish story is to point out that they’ve always been there. The three Moses’– Moshe Rabbenu, Moses Maimonides (Rambam), and Moses Mendelssohn (the great Enlightenment philosopher) come to mind. More recently, the work of Jewish feminists such as Rachel Adler also come to mind, as does the work of GLBT oriented rabbis like Rabbi Josh Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta, GA (where I live and work). I’d like to think that the album of original Jewish music I’m currently recording and producing is an example of “making.” In other words, there’s no shortage of “makers” in the context of Jewish history.
          Another way of thinking about the role of “making” in Judaism stems from the traditional idea of Midrash. Midrash comes from the Hebrew root doresh which means “to seek.” Finding and making are two different and complimentary ways of seeking, of doing midrash. The finders task is analytical– she scrutinizes, reviews, deciphers, and unpacks. The makers task is constructive– building, innovating, and creating. The finder uses a microscope and the maker uses a telescope. The finder understands that interpretation is a never ending process. The maker understands that vision and novelty are the guarantors that the Jewish future is even more vibrant than the past.
          There’s much more that could be said about makers and finders. We’ll leave it here for now with the intent of returning to explore the dialectical relationship with fresh eyes sometime in the future.