On Monday, October 07, The Jewish Federation’s Board of Rabbis hosted its monthly luncheon as part of its “Leaders on Leadership” series, which provides a space for the professionals and lay leadership of the Federation to explore Jewish themes that impact our work and the community. This session featured Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein, Senior Rabbi at University Synagogue in Los Angeles and Vice President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California speaking on “Leadership as a Journey/”
Themes of Abraham’s journey were discussed by the participants – in particular, what a dozen Jewish commentators had to say about this week’s Torah portion, “Lech Lecha” or “Go for yourself”, in which God tells Abraham, “Leave your land, your birthplace and your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you.” In response to Rabbi Shmuel of Succatchov’s opinion that every person should take their own unique path, Dr. Beryl Geber, The Jewish Federation’s Senior Vice President of Synagogue and Rabbinic Initiatives, noted that, like Abraham and Sarah, our own Jewish journeys take different shapes through the course of our lives.
This notion of the shifting journey continued to be explored within the context of the recent Pew Study of American Jewish Life. Levels of Jewish Americans’ decreasing affiliation with Judaism as the primary marker of Jewish identity reflects larger patterns of American disaffiliation with all forms organized religion, including among Christian Americans. Rabbi Feinstein noted that Americans are increasingly comfortable living in a multi-ethnic and diverse society, and may feel less need to align themselves with traditional cultural or religious groups. He drew attention to how current words like “empower” and “sustainability” were not a part of the Jewish vocabulary in previous decades, or on previous journeys, and cautioned that just as Abraham did not know the end of his journey while he was on it, we do not know the end of ours. The important lesson is to live one’s Jewish life authentically and meaningfully.