Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can "Lost" save the Jewish world?

I’ll just put it out there: I love “Lost”. It helps complete my Tuesdays, watching how Hugo, Jack, Kate and everyone else on the Island figure out what their purpose in life is. In the last episode, “Lost” gematria became a major theme. For those of you who seek direction let me explain. In the show, a series of numbers pop up periodically, and seem to have a crucial connection to the lives of the characters. These numbers are 4,8,15,16,23,42. This week, the number 23 was very important in relation to one of the central personalities. On the same day, “Idea #23” was posted on the “28 days, 28 ideas” website, on which appear 28 “great new ideas for helping out the Jews”. Go here to read them all: I began thinking: What if Life imitated Art? Maybe there is a super-mystical connection between the numerals on “Lost” and the “28 Ideas”. So I began to correlate the “Lost” numerology to the 28 ideas for the Jewish tomorrow found on the web. This is what I found:

#4: Orthodox Feminist Day Schools - I’m not Orthodox, but this idea of rethinking gender roles in traditional Judaism is emblematic of Jewish history being defined by changes in frames of reference. The strength of Judaism is its ability to redraw itself within the context of modernity (whenever that is) and Jewish tradition, whether it’s the rise of Rabbinic Judaism after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, the emergence of the Hassidic movement in the 18th century or the development of Zionism in the last 150 years. We have never been afraid of walking through open doors – or at least checking out what’s on the other side. Idea #4 ( is an example of an evolving and ever-growing Judaism.

#8: Jewish Artists Residency – The idea of establishing a community of artists ( leads me to think about creating dynamic communities of learning and engagement that touch on the diverse nature of what it means to study and be Jewish. It speaks to the concept that “the same old same old” doesn’t apply anymore, and that we need to foster safe, nurturing and constructive environments that can be catalysts for Jewish growth, even if they are not conventional.

#15: Return of the Matchmaker – We’re not talking about a throw-back to the time before JDate. This idea suggests the designing of structures that connect individuals to Jewish experiences; “building relationships rather than programs” ( It reflects the psychology of the 21st century American consumerist ethic. Whether we like it or not, Jewish life in North America is impacted by hyper-individualism. The question is how do we leverage this phenomenon to our advantage? How do we become guides and connectors in the marketplace of Jewish thought and practice?

#16: Chai Mitzvah – A simple but elegant idea ( that compliments idea #15: link people to opportunities to study and practice Jewish life, establishing them as moments of celebration and confirmation. We never stop learning, so why can’t we create a new ritual or milestone that commemorates our never-ending path towards Jewish enlightenment? What’s wonderful about this is that it affirms what we all knew already: that study leads to practice, and that adults who continue on the journey of Torah Lishma can take this exquisitely personal experience and make it public, special, and (who knows) even holy.

#23: This is the idea that led me to the epiphany that “Lost” may help us find the answer. The idea is: Jewish Identity Projects Are Not The Answer. Now, this may sound radical, but the basic concept is that being Jewish is more than how one feels. Judaism is an action oriented culture/civilization/way of life. It’s not about talking the talk; it’s about walking the walk. Being Jewish is about doing Jewish. Idea #23 ( teaches us that we need to reevaluate our efforts to promote Jewish engagement. Touchy – feely ain’t enough. It’s how we behave that defines what being Jewish is all about.

We’re missing one idea for one number: #42. But that’s okay. I was being a tad playful when I began this “Lost” scavenger hunt, but you know, these ideas are crucial. If we care about creating a Jewish future, we need to be prepared to find the answers in unexpected places. These ideas (and all of the 28) can help us rethink what we’re doing and how we need to move forward. And who knows, someone may come up with idea #42 which will change everything.

On that note, see you on the Island.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jump starting the week

Thinking about God today. I suppose it’s appropriate – it is Shabbat. Anyway, I just received a book by Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Ineffable Name of God: Man. It’s a collection of poems that this greatest of 20th century Jewish thinkers (though Buber is up there, too), published when he was slightly older then my daughter. I opened it up randomly, and found this piece (on page 31) which really speaks to me. Like I've always said: Serendipity is proof of the divine.

Here it is.

Transmissions flow from your heart to Mine.
Trading, twining My pain with yours.
Am I not – you? Are you not – I?

My nerves are clustered with Yours.
Your dreams have met with mine.
Are we not one in the bodies of millions?

Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
Hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden.
I live in Me and in you.
Through you lips goes a word from Me to Me,
From your eyes drips a tear – its source in Me.

When a need pains You, alarm me!
When You miss a human being
tear open my door!
You live in Yourself, You live in me.

Have a good week everyone.