The BBC recently ran a story asking, “Is religion relevant anymore?” You might say “yes” by the declining numbers in synagogue affiliation – fewer Jews in the pews.
To be relevant, religion must be helpful to people’s real lives. In 2018, most agree that life is complex and challenging and so we need a new language for Judaism that clearly articulates a way to enhance our lives in everything we do and everything we are.
While ancient Jewish texts teach that God chose the Jewish People, we’re seeing clearly that in the 21st century it is the People that will or will not choose to be Jewish. It’s not enough to glorify Judaism and the benefits of living a Jewish life. We need something new and serious.
Enter Positive Judaism, Judaism 4.0
There were three motivators for Jewish life in the last century that are losing or have lost steam all together. Historical memory and anti-semitism (1.0), Israel (2.0), and intermarriage (3.0), are not strong enough motivators for lifelong Jewish engagement in the 21st century.
These are all important – it’s important to know our history so that we do not repeat mistakes of the past. It is important that Israel exists as a safe haven for Jews and we must positively support all families who want to be part of the Jewish People – warmly welcoming spouses that were not born Jewish. All of this is a given. But none of this is central enough to our lives in the 21st century because the issues and challenges that we’re facing today are new and different.
Today, people are looking for a deeper meaning to their lives. They want to live a positive life. They want to live well, enjoy life, and make every day count. Helping people with these questions in their lives makes religion worth it. That is why I teach that Positive Judaism is Religion 4.0 because it deals with optimal living, well-being, and happiness. Positive Judaism brings attention to the virtues that enhance life and that are at the core of living a meaningful life:
- Wisdom: Open-minded, curious, creative, love of learning
- Courage: Bravery, persistence, integrity, resilience
- Humanity: Love, kindness, social intelligence
- Justice: Citizenship, fairness, leadership
- Temperance: Forgiveness, mercy, humanity, self control
- Transcendence: Appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
When Positive Judaism is experienced by an individual or community, the impact will be increased positive emotion, increased communal engagement, improved relationships, and accelerated human advancement. People and communities will be more confident, optimistic, open to diversity, able to learn lessons from hardship, experience work as a calling, act and think with purpose, contribute and help, appreciate family and friends, and act generously
Positive Judaism is just at the beginning, but together we can build the 4.0 version of religion that will be positive in your life and the world around you.
To Your Positivity and Wellbeing,
Rabbi Darren Levine