There are professional prognosticators who do their level best to read the future before it happens. They look at trends and past performance and a thousand other indicators to justify guessing what’s next. They encourage certain investments or military build-ups or shifting stock from a warehouse or how many kilowatts of power a particular region will need over 48 hours.
I’d love to meet a professional prognosticator who focuses on the Jewish people because I have so many questions. What is the trajectory of Jewish life? More involvement or less? More interest in social justice or spirituality? Does the Reform movement’s attitude of inclusiveness and radical hospitality strengthen the Jewish people? How does identity politics change the arc of Jewish involvement in civic life?
With all due respect to prognosticators, there’s not much logic in trying to predict what’s next. Making predictions is possible. Making accurate predictions isn’t. But that’s no excuse to dismiss thoughts about the future. It behooves us to ask big questions and to wonder out loud what we may become. We aren’t passive passengers aboard an express train. We have a say in how we get to the destination stage by stage. It becomes too easy to throw up our hands and tumble into victimhood. This is why to survive as a community, we need to opt-in. We must embrace our commitment to Jewish life, not with respect to what may be in 10 years, but rather what we are and what we want right now.
Living in the moment has become a cri de coeur during this long, mind-numbing pandemic. It signifies a new commitment to the here-and-now. What’s next? I have no clue. But I know that, right now, there’s a deep need to make meaning by defining what we stand for and what we want to learn. We want to reinforce the traditions of 2000 years, and we want to create new and surprising alternatives to Jewish living.
There is no going back to the way it was. We are trailblazing, not returning. This is a little scary; it is a significant spin on how Jewish life works, how synagogues have maneuvered over the centuries. It’s a wild time to be alive.
I’m not predicting anything. That’s a trap, a cul de sac. I have a list of hopes and dreams and how I think they may pan out in the present. As the song goes, “don’t stop believing.” We make it happen.
Shabbat Shalom, rebhayim