Ninety per cent of American Jews are either proud or very proud of being Jewish. Yet less than fifteen percent of those same Jews consider religion important. In the recent Pew study of all Americans, Jews received the warmest feelings and the lowest cold feelings of any religious group. What is this Jewish sense that so matters? What draws us to services on the high holidays?
Our Jewishness has cache not only because it comes from ancient tradition but because it reflects our distinct experiences in art, culture, social action and business. It comes out of the way we navigate the path between maintaining our identity and engaging with the greater world. Coming to services can seem problematic because we know we should belong but it also can feel distinct from us—even from our own sense of Jewishness.
Our leadership at services is a team that draws on the full range of the Jewish experience.
Few know that there are as many African American Jews in the United States as there are Israeli Jews who officially reside here. Rabbinical school graduate Tamar Manasseh will be with us to engage us with a world of Jews who may help us value the tradition we have lost sight of. Through her Jewish perspective leading to efforts to limit the killings in Englewood, she brings alive a Jewish tradition of activism that was central in our ancestors coming to America. She inspires by living and teaching the vision that many of the descendants of Eastern European Jews have forgotten.
Rabbi Tsafi Lev, whose Sephardic parents just returned to live in Israel, works with the most educated and challenging young people in Los Angeles. He will focus on their iconoclastic questions and help us make the entire High Holiday experience cognitively and emotionally gratifying.
David Landau, Howard Levy, Kalyan Pathak and Larry Gray will be joined by Judith Golden with musical prayer that provokes and soothes.
As Donniel Hartman said during a recent visit to Aitz Hayim, American Jewish life has moved into a new stage of development since we began Aitz Hayim. Jews want more individual opportunities to pick and choose how they will experience, express and “do” their Jewishness. They don’t like the limitations of affiliation as they want to define themselves with Jewish perspectives, not be limited by templates.
This year we are restructuring our services on both days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to make every moment meaningful by more fully integrating the prayers and music with the ideas and themes for this year.
Aitz Hayim is at its best when it is fresh and exciting. We are looking forward to achieving new heights this year.
We hope you will be with us for 2018/5779 High Holiday Services at the Highland Park Community House.