Religion & Beliefs

When Rabbis Are Too Jew-y, You’re Being Intolerant

At my brunch yesterday we had a brief but interesting discussion about a rabbi in the community who was deemed too Jew-y by some congregants. Yes, apparently even rabbis shouldn’t be too Jew-y. I’m not sure I can give any … Read More

By / November 12, 2007

At my brunch yesterday we had a brief but interesting discussion about a rabbi in the community who was deemed too Jew-y by some congregants. Yes, apparently even rabbis shouldn’t be too Jew-y. I’m not sure I can give any kind of summary of what it means to be too Jew-y. I assume that everyone has a different threshold for how much Jewiness they can handle, but as far as I can tell, with this particular rabbi, what people meant when they complained about him was that he was too Brooklyn. He wasn’t Chasidic, of course, he just struck people as nebbish, maybe not masculine enough, and mostly too stereotypically Jewish. I’m not even going to address the complete insanity of calling a rabbi too Jewish, because it’s a fight I just don’t have the time for. I will, though, say that I think the Jewish community needs to get over itself and deal with the fact that some of us have big noses and some of us are miserly and some of us are bad at boxing, and that doesn’t necessarily undermine our future as a people. I can see that a congregation may want to present itself as somehow transcending stereotypes and/or reaching out to people who are not your typical Jews (whatever the hell that means) but I don’t think that abandoning people who do happen to conform to old standards is the answer. I was thinking about this again this morning because there was a piece on Nashville public radio about the new Baptist hymnal coming out soon, and how it’s going to have lots of new songs in it, and fewer of the old standards. They interviewed a 78-year-old Baptist woman named Emile Selig who’s annoyed about the move to more contemporary praise songs. In an interview she said, “And my favorite expression is that now you have the 7–11 songs, you’ve got seven words you sing 11 times.” Sometimes I worry that we’re pulling a 7-11 type thing in Judaism. Though it’s important to reach out to people who are unaffiliated (hi, GA, welcome to my city), I hope it doesn’t mean that we lose all sense of meaning, or that we have to abandon the older and more conformist members of our community.