An Agenda for the Masorti Movement
By Jonathan Wittenberg, New North London Synagogue
6th Annual Louis Jacobs Memorial Lecture, delivered by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg at the New London Synagogue in 2012. Rabbi Wittenberg presents an agenda for Masorti, through which adherents, originating within a modern outlook, could recreate and re-envisage traditional Judaism. He tackles this through for angles:
- learning and knowledge: intellectual integrity in relation to matters of dogma, with the firm conviction that historical inquiry on the origins of sacrd texts or on the evolution of Jewish practice do not in and of themselves undermine contemporary religious commitment. Since the divine will manifests itself in human history, it is accessible precisely through historical consciousness. Masorti Jews must therefore endeavour to educate themselves in Jewish texts, but with a mind to negotiate these texts in light of modern values.
- piety and spirituality: an intellectual orientation is insufficient when devoid of yirat shamayim, fear of Heaven. Judaism places a strong emphasis, particularly in the domains of prayer and worship, on the experience of a personal, spiritual connection with the divine, on a sense of awe and humility in the presence of God. The individual must occasionally suspend reason in order to further what Heschel calls the ‘mutual allegiance’ between human beings and God.
- values: unlike modern society, which tends to measure the individual in utilitarian terms, Judaism grants primacy to such values as justice, generosity, humility, commitment to the community, or piety. In spite of the enthusiasm many contemporary Jews have demonstrated, particularly in Masorti, towards social justice, too many fail to acknowledge the traditional values of selflessness and loving-kindness as part of Jewish spirituality.
- practice and commitment: Masorti regrettably neglect religious observance on too wide a scale. Our lives should be guided wholly, not just partially, by our Judaism.
A Q&A session follows the lecture.