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Ten Commandments That Might Just Ensure a Jewish Future

December 30, 2010 By:
Archie Gottesman
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Archie Gottesman

I get so stressed every Sunday morning when I read the wedding announcements in the newspaper, with the Rachel Cohens and Ben Steins being married by Unitarian ministers to John Christiansons and Christine Browns. Oy. Our Jewish future is leaving.

For years, we Jews have bent over backward trying to make Judaism fit every taste. It's clear our openness is killing us. We need some non-negotiables, new commandments. Here's my version of the new Ten Commandments.

· Jewish grandchildren -- You want them, right? Then raise your children to be Jewish. Children do not decide religion; parents do. No matter who you marry, decide ahead of time that the kids will be brought up as Jews. If the thought of going to your grandchild's baptism troubles you, do something about it now.

· Belief in God is not required -- Enough with Jews opting out of Judaism because they "don't believe in God." You do not need to believe in God to be a good Jew. Meaningful Judaism can be about values, tradition and community.

· Hebrew school -- I didn't like it. You didn't like it. Our kids don't either. Some creative people are thinking about better ways to educate our children. Until they do, we must send our kids to Hebrew school. I know it will conflict with soccer or other over-programmed activities. But in the end, the values, history and character that our children learn from being members of the Jewish community will mean more than being on yet another traveling softball team.

· Get to Israel -- It is your responsibility to take your family to Israel. If I have to talk to another wealthy Jewish parent about how much her daughter enjoyed Birthright, I am going to vomit. A family who takes ski trips to Vail and jaunts to Rome but still hasn't brought the children to Israel should be embarrassed. It is shameful that because of Birthright, the Jewish community now has to pay the bill for doing what Jewish parents should be doing themselves.

· End boring synagogue -- I have attended and practically slept through so many Bar and Bat Mitzvah services wondering not why we are losing so many Jews but why we aren't losing more. C'mon rabbis, change it up! Be creative, be humorous, be spiritual. Did you hear about the Easter services in Corpus Christi where they gave away cars, bikes and TVs to people just for coming to services? I bet you rolled your eyes. I did, too -- until I watched the service on YouTube. It was fun, invigorating, inspiring! I stopped rolling my eyes.

· Give philanthropy to Jewish causes -- While a basic Jewish value is improving the world, it would be nice if Jews could improve the Jewish world, too. We need to make sure that much of our philanthropy is directed to Jewish causes. We are the only ones who will support our own.

· Jewish camp -- Jewish camp may be the savior of the Jewish people. I am not talking about camp with a lot of Jewish kids, but Jewish overnight camp where they teach Jewish values in a hip way. Jewish camp will light the spark inside your children that will make them love and identify with their cool Judaism in ways that we can't teach at home.

· Join a synagogue -- Judaism is a communal religion. It is difficult to do solo. If you actually become involved in a synagogue, you might be surprised to find how much you can affect your own Jewish community. If you are not a member of a synagogue but march in twice a year expecting to enjoy it, you will always feel like a disappointed outsider.

· Bar and Bat mitzvah projects -- Mitzvah projects, where the celebrant performs a community service project, may be the only positive change that has taken place in the Bar and Bat Mitzvah world in the past 20 years. Many children are asking guests to donate to their chosen mitzvah project. What a menschy thing to do. But don't forget, while mitzvah projects are good, Jewish and Israel-based mitzvah projects are great.

· Shabbat -- Friday night is family Shabbat -- period. It doesn't matter if you cook a chicken or order in a pizza. But light the candles, bless the wine and challah, bless your children.

Will your teenagers hate you for ruining their lives as they miss dances, football games and sleepovers? Yes. Deal with it. We all have heard the statistics on how family dinner makes for healthier families. Many of our non-Jewish friends are envious that we have a built-in family night in our religion.

· Honorable mention: Day school -- My husband and I do not send our children to day school, but many people swear by it, so give it a go.

That's it. You probably take issue with one commandment or another. Of course you do: You're Jewish. So write your own column. But remember: We are a people in crisis and we should act like it.

Archie Gottesman is an owner/executive vice president of Manhattan Mini Storage and Edison Park Fast companies. She is a recent graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program and a board member of the Foundation for Jewish Camping.

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