Oh, har har. Look at that! Get it? Get it?
What bothers me about this is that it, rather accurately, represents the insecurity and lack of authenticity many Reform Jews feel about themselves and their place on the Jewish spectrum. Say I’m taking this too far, go ahead, but I can’t tell you how many people have said some version of the following to me:
“I’m not as Jewish as so-and-so”
“I don’t really clean for Pesach – I’m such a bad Jew [insert uncomfortable laugh]”
“Oh, haha, we don’t go to temple very often; my brother over in [insert Orthodox neighborhood or Conservative shul here] is a real Jew.”
This makes me really sad. I am pretty sure the Orthodox and Conservative movements have not co-opted being Jewish – we are all “real” Jews. Cartoons like the one above only serve to reinforce our fears of inadequacy and ambivalence about ourselves, and stereotypes about us by others.
I get it, I really do. I get that the majority of Reform Jews do not clean as stringently as other versions of Jews. I get that this is the thing to which the cartoon is referring. And, I kind of chuckled. And then sighed. Because while superficially it is amusing, it represents a bigger issue to me.
Here is why this bothers me: when people buy in to their own feelings of inadequacy and ignorance, most give up. Why bother trying or learning? It will never be enough – not like those real Jews. The cartoon could be describing the feelings self-worth (or lack of) of many Reform Jews I know. And this makes me sad. Because how can we be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6), how can we be a proud, strong people when we are so insecure that we are too embarrassed to learn about or address what we choose not to do?
It is not about “doing” or “not doing” for me. It’s about knowledge. Clean a lot, clean a little, or don’t clean at all for Pesach? Doesn’t matter. Do you know WHY you do or do not clean for Pesach? THAT MATTERS. Are you observant a lot, a little, or not at all? Doesn’t matter. Are you a thoughtful, educated Jew? THIS MATTERS.
My wish for this Season of Freedom is for us to be released from our doubts and insecurities, for us to pledge to learn more about ourselves and our people, and to pass this to our children – for this is the purpose of Pesach!
Don’t know where to start? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will help you! If you’re local and want to get an informal study group together, I’m on board! If you’re not local and don’t know where to turn, contact me and I will point you in the direction of people in your community. If you have rabbis, rebbetzins, educators in your community that you know, call them up! Take ownership of your choices!
A meaningful Passover to all!