Avraham Infeld Makes His Case for a Passionate Judaism – tech2.org

Avraham Infeld Makes His Case for a Passionate Judaism


A narrative is informed of a customer to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem who’s taken on a tour of the buildings named after well-known Jewish writers. But the identify on one constructing is unfamiliar to the customer.

“What did he write?” asks the customer, to which the information solutions: “A check.”

I used to be reminded of this story within the opening pages of “A Pbadion for a People: Lessons From the Life of a Jewish Educator” by Avraham Infeld with Clare Goldwater (YouCaxton Publications). It’s the memoir of a person who has written his identify into our historical past — not with a guide, not with a test, however along with his life’s work, each in Israel and all through the Diaspora.

Over the years, he has served as president of Hillel International, CEO of the Melitz Center for Jewish Zionist Education, director of English-speaking youth packages for the Jewish Agency and planning director of Birthright Israel, amongst different posts.

“I am a builder — not of buildings but families,” Infeld explains. “I start with my own family … [a]nd then I expanded my perspective, yielding to the eternal pull that I feel toward the extended Jewish family to those I don’t know personally but love anyway and to the relatives across time and space that Jewish history has bequeathed me.”

Born in South Africa within the 1950s, Infeld was raised in what he calls a “secular, ethnic, Zionist form of Judaism,” and solely later discovered his manner into observant Judaism.

“For our family, Shavuot was an agricultural festival that had been revitalized by the Zionist movement,” he recollects. “I had no idea that Jews around the world celebrate Shavuot as the day on which the Torah was given.”

Even so, he insists that describing Judaism as a faith “is a distortion of what we are.” He says: “One cannot practice the Jewish religion without a sense of belonging to the People.”

His devoted work for a various and distinguished listing of Jewish communal organizations was in service of the overriding aim of reminding Jews that they belonged to a folks moderately than a religion. According to Gideon Shimoni, a professor at Hebrew University, “peoplehood” is “an idea which turned the hallmark of his famed academic enterprise.

Intriguingly, he doesn’t establish anti-Semitism as the best problem to the integrity and vigor of the Jewish folks.  Rather, he reaches again to the Emancipation of the 19th century, which enabled Jews to flee the ghetto and enter the secular world, an occasion that shattered the Jewish folks into what he calls “subtribes,” together with “the Zionist, the Haredi, the badimilated Jew, and the denominational Jew — each with its own definition of what it means to be a Jew.”

Yet he regards the variety of Judaism because the supply of its richness, energy and vitality, if not additionally a few of its best challenges.

A guide in regards to the Jewish faith that even a completely non-observant Jew will discover endearing and enriching.

“[M]y understanding of being Jewish today has been continually enriched by the multiplicity of modern Jewish identities that I have encountered. … And the badumption behind it is very important — namely, there cannot be a single way or truth for what it means to be Jewish, there are only multiple perspectives on the same truth,” he mentioned.

Early in his profession, Infeld frolicked at what’s now the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of American Jewish University in Simi Valley, and he singles out its founder, Shlomo Bardin, as certainly one of his lecturers and mentors. But Infeld additionally confesses that America causes him to really feel each “love and fear” exactly as a result of “you can be Jewish and American at the same time.”

The cause for his trepidation is present in the truth that Judaism is considered a faith in America: “[If] Judaism is a religion, like Christianity, then there is no national identity to express and no contradiction between being American and being Jewish.”

Exactly right here we discover the reducing fringe of Infeld’s candor. Since the United States and Israel, no less than in the course of the pioneering period of secular Zionism, sought to attain “freedom from religion,” the aim of each nations appeared to supply “an ability to be Jewish without religion.”

For Infeld, then, we should acknowledge our membership within the Jewish folks earlier than (and whether or not or not) we take part within the spiritual practices of Judaism.

“After all, a religion is understood as the truth of all truths, and religions want others to accept those truths,” he explains. “If we had that approach, we would actively look for those non-Jews who wanted to try on tefilin and perform other mitzvot. … But we are not a religion, we are a people, and our rituals and values apply only to those who are members of our People.”

Infeld sums up his personal prescription for the well being of the Jewish folks with the metaphor of “the five-legged table,” that’s, “Memory, family, Mount Sinai, Israel and Hebrew.”  Notably, just one leg of the desk is explicitly spiritual: “Mount Sinai signifies the earliest recognition of a transcendent power and the ensuing realization that if there is already a God, then human beings are not God,” he writes. “From here we learn the values and rituals that are our particular inheritance and that govern our behaviors, our role in the world, and our contribution to humanity.”

Even relating to the miraculous account of Mount Sinai that we discover within the Torah, Infeld retains an open thoughts: “Whether or not it really happened, this event changed us forever.”

“A Pbadion for a People” is a guide in regards to the Jewish faith that even a completely non-observant Jew will discover endearing and enriching.  It is superbly written, filled with resonant tales and recollections, mild instruction and each braveness and candor. “I live in perpetual tension between my universal and particular tendencies,” he writes. “I am both Avraham Infeld the Jew and Avraham Infeld the human being.”

And so, Infeld has given us a guide that  is meant to open each doorways and

Jonathan Kirsch, creator and publishing legal professional, is the guide editor of the Jewish Journal.

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