experiments, instruments & measurement book

Tekkes Siyyum 5772 – Knowing, Doing, Believing and Belonging

Talk by Rabbi Eve Rudin at the Tekkes Siyyum on May 29, 2012
Originally posted on the Park Avenue Synagogue blog

This talk was preceded by a Rabbis vs. Cantors competition, with all competitors dressed in athletic clothing. Rabbi Eve Rudin and Rabbi Steven Rein made up “Team St-eve.”

Wow! I’m out of breath. What a workout!! I am so proud to have been part of Team St-eve. And Cantors, you were pretty good, too!

So…I guess all of you think it’s pretty crazy to see rabbis and cantors in workout clothes on the bimah. And while Rabbi Rein clearly gave up an illustrious basketball career, I gave up…well, let’s just say I can beat my dad at tennis and that makes me totally awesome…in my immediate family.

So…how many of you play on a sports team? Who plays tennis? Baseball? Soccer? Basketball?

So…how many of you BOWL?

Bowling actually has a very interesting history. You may know bowling from birthday parties or Wii Sports. But most of you probably don’t bowl regularly through a team or even what is called a “bowling league.” Among those of us here slightly older than 18, many of us know and remember what a bowling league was and is. It was a group of people who came together regularly – usually weekly – and bowled together as a team. A bowling league was a key way to make friends and be a part of a neighborhood community.

What happened to the bowling league, you ask? Well, some still exist. But there are far fewer bowling leagues than there used to be. Robert Putnam drew attention to this fact in a book called Bowling Alone. As it turns out, while bowling leagues have significantly declined, bowling has not. In fact, Americans have been bowling more than ever. But they are bowling alone.1

Putnam explains further that the bowling alone phenomenon is a symptom of Americans being less connected with family, friends, neighbors, our duty as citizens, and religion. Since the 1960’s, a quarter to perhaps a third of today’s young people say that they have no religion. Putnam goes on to show that people who are religious are 3-4 times more likely to be involved in their community and civic life. It has nothing to do with divine judgment, or in Christian circles, about getting into heaven. Rather, it’s the relationshipspeople make in their churches, mosques, and synagogues that draw them into community. In other words, it’s not faith, but faith communities that make a difference.2

You may be thinking, why, Rabbi Rudin, are you talking to us about this? We’re here! We’re in the sanctuary here at Park Avenue synagogue on a Tuesday evening listening to you while you are dressed in sweatpants!

Well, I think that you are here because many of the parents in the room have asked the question “who do I want my child to be?”

The answer in a nutshell is that we want you to be good people. We want you to make the right decisions and treat others well as you would like to be treated. And we want you to do this through being a member of our Jewish Team, the Jewish community. The great rabbi Hillel taught us that we should not separate ourselves from the community.

So, let’s go back to sports for a minute, and think about what it takes to get onto the varsity basketball team. You have to know the rules of the game and how the game is played. You have to practice what you’re doing: dribbling, layups, free throws and passes. You have to believe in yourself and you have to really want it. And if all that happens, hopefully you can join the team. But if you don’t join the team, all the dribbling and practicing layups and free throws alone will not make you a player on a basketball team.

The same goes for Judaism (although luckily we don’t have tryouts). Judaism doesn’t work if you practice it all alone. Judaism only works if we join Team Judaism. So, the goal isn’t to just know information or to chant a lot of Torah on your Bar Mitzvah day. Being Jewish means being a part of a community. Being there for others at times of joy and sadness. Doing good for others. And celebrating our rich and wonderful tradition year to year. This past weekend, we celebrated the holiday of Shavuot – the holiday when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai. God makes it clear that the Torah was not only for the people there that day, but also for those in the generations to follow and in generations yet to come.

Over the past few years, there have been many changes here at the synagogue. This past year was a huge change at the congregational school. During the year, and with the help of many of you, we have created a new vision statement for the school. While it was written for the Congregational School, it is our hope that it speaks to every learner here at the synagogue.

Here is what it says:

  • We want your Jewish experience here to be interesting, fun, and relevant to your lives. 
  • We want to inspire you to be Jewish for your whole lives. It is NOT just about becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. 
  • We want your families to be more involved in your Jewish experience. They are your parents, after all. 
  • We want everyone to KNOW things. 
  • We want everyone to DO things. 
  • We want everyone to BELIEVE that Judaism is important. 
  • We want everyone to feel that they BELONG to the Jewish Team.

These are the four words that you will start to hear over and over again: KNOWING, DOING, BELIEVING and BELONGING.

Like basketball, Judaism starts with dribbling; you have to learn the basics. But if you were just dribbling alone and never got past dribbling, you’d never experience the thrill of being on a basketball team. Our goal here at the synagogue is for you to KNOW and love Judaism so that you DO, BELIEVE and BELONG to the Jewish Team.

This year, all of us at the synagogue have enjoyed creating some many wonderful moments with all of you. We especially want to thank all our teachers, all our families and most importantly, all of you for a wonderful year!
1 Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Simon and Schuster, 2000.
American Grace, How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Robert Putnam and David E. Campbell, Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

geriatrics books