OPINION: Let’s recognise our Jewish plurality as students

OPINION: Let’s recognise our Jewish plurality as students

Rabbi Leah Jordan
Rabbi Leah Jordan

Rabbi Leah Jordan is young adult chaplain, Liberal Judaism. She tweets HERE

Rabbi Leah Jordan
Rabbi Leah Jordan

“Are you Christian?”

That was a genuine question asked by a more traditional Jewish student to a fellow Jew on campus.

Many Progressive Jewish students can tell you some version of this story.

Progressive Jewish students face a further hurdle at university, aside from the threat of anti-Semitism and how best to keep the traditions – misunderstanding and even scorn from their fellow Jews about their own Jewish identity.

Klal Yisrael, the community of Israel, is diverse.

Along with the many ethnicities we, as British Jews, often don’t meet – such as indigenous South American Jews or Jews from Ethiopia – there are different ways of practicing Judaism.

In the Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s National Jewish Community Survey of 2013, more than 50 percent of respondents identified as some version of non-traditional or non-Orthodox, whether cultural, Progressive, or ‘just Jewish’.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, the Talmud teaches at the bottom of page 39a in Shavuot.

All of Israel is responsible for one another.

After this summer in Israel, the political debate on campus will be hotter and more divisive than ever.

Students will have to wade through questions around war, Zionist identity, human rights, Palestinian self-determination, BDS and two-state, bi-state and one-state solutions in their ever- increasing fervour and complexity, with unhelpful vitriol and understandable anger.

Students may also face some more sharply barbed anti-Semitism as well as general ignorance about Jews.

Opening up their world and becoming Jewish adults with a vibrant, dynamic, robust Judaism of ethics and Torah and festivals and Shabbat seems almost put on the back burner.

So why add the further complication of misunderstanding and resentment among ourselves?

Many Progressive Jewish students, who grew up in Jewish communities across the country, feel alienated by their university JSocs because their peers are not welcoming of non-Orthodox Jews.

We all hail from different Jewish backgrounds and, if we really believe in Klal Yisrael, as parents and teachers we need to get better at instilling that education and understanding in our young people. 

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