Your historic congregation and its great new Rabbi strive to maintain a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I hope to support that goal by complicating the conversation.
I want to suggest that when we think about contemporary Jewish life, the distinctions known to us from the natural sciences among solid, liquid, and gaseous states can be useful.
Designated behaviors, beautiful buildings, a Jewish State – these all express solid Jewish commitments. But Reform Judaism has always emphasized the liquid nature of Judaism – its openness to change; its adaptability; its diversity. And increasingly in American Jewish discourse there are those who can tolerate only a whiff of Judaism, a general spirit, an atmosphere, but are worried or alienated by more solidly Jewish iterations. For them, Jewish identity is not meant to be more tangible than a gas.
In my presentation I will suggest that, as we strategize for the Jewish future, the fourth state – plasma – may be one worth considering. I will ask the question: How do we make sure that a warm welcome does not become lukewarm, that an emphasis on the liquid does not make us tepid?
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that those who offer passion and certainty are attracting more adherents than those promoting complexity and irony. What must follow the warm welcome to ensure that our strategies of hospitality yield a healthy blend of the solid, the liquid, the gaseous, and the plasma states of Judaism?
– Rabbi Marmur