The following is an excerpt from my recently published new edition of “Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet.”
To be a Jew is to see the world through the eyes of God, to be unreconciled to the world as it is, to be discontented with the status quo, and to be unafraid to challenge it.
To be a Jew is to be a co-worker with God in the task of perfecting the world, to know that the world remains unredeemed and that we must work with God to redeem it.
To be a Jew is to feel deeply the harms done to others, to speak out in the face of wrongdoing, and to prod the conscience of those who passively accept the status quo.
To be a Jew is to stand apart from the world, to be a non-conformist, to shout “NO” when others murmur “yes” to injustice, and to actively help uplift those in need and try to correct injustices, even if others stand idly by.
To be a Jew is to be intoxicated with a dream of social justice, to have an abiding concern for others, and to have compassion without condescension for people who are poor, weak, and suffering.
To be a Jew means to know that God’s name can be sanctified by our actions, and to try to live a life compatible with being created in God’s image by doing justly, acting kindly, and in all ways imitating God’s attributes.
To be a Jew means to believe in the unlimited potential of people in spite of the evil and injustice around us, and recognizing that we have been chosen to serve as an example, to strive to be “a light unto the nations.”
To be a Jew means of course many specific practices concerning Shabbat, kashrut, and much more. It means study and worship, and most of all action and observance. It means all these things and far more. It is not always easy to be a Jew, but it is always a very significant and worthwhile endeavor.