Why is it important to stay Jewish?
This is the key question that underlies all of our efforts to strengthen Jewish communities. Some of us feel it in our bones. Other wonderful Jews don't grow up with a strong identity and don't really know why the whole Jewish identity-thing is worth any effort at all. So how do we explain the centrality of Jewishness? How do we light a spark?
In my humble opinion, the 'G-d spoke at Sinai' approach only works if both the teacher and student (or parent and child) are both fervently orthodox (and doesn’t always work then, either!).
At the other extreme, if there is nothing special about being Jewish, why bother?
I use several approaches to open this difficult but central subject. One theme I suggest is the "WOW" approach - use stories, stats, facts, etc (you can get them from my book!) to notice the incredible uniqueness of the Jewish people. For instance:
Due to unparalleled persecution and exile, over thousands of years, we would have easily been voted the least likely people to survive - yet we are the oldest people on the planet - with the same language, culture, and religion - after almost 4,000 years.
Approximately 1/3 of all Nobel prize winners are Jewish - yet we represent just 0.2% of the world population. This isn't a new phenomenon - the Greeks and Romans complained about our influence. How can such a small people give so much, for so long?
We're not the only people to have been exiled from our country, but we are the only people to ever return. With all of our real problems in Israel (don't get me started!), take a step back and look at the miracle unfolding before our very eyes. The land is blooming once again.
When I think about this, I think: "Wow – I don’t fully get this, don’t know if I ever will, but there is more here than meets the eye. I don't think I'm better or worse than anyone else... but my people is incredible. And I want to know more."
This approach is to allow people to sense the mystery of being Jewish - and begin their own personal Jewish journey.