‘The problem is the labels’

‘The problem is the labels’

Thank you for Lawrence Bush’s excellent and provocative Sept. 11 article on secular Jews. I am an occasionally observant Jew (I prefer this to the designation of secular since secular implies a rejection of religion), and Rabbi Shain taught me that as Jews we are all endowed with the spark of our creator. It seems that this alone should level the playing field and bind us together as a people instead of allowing us to divide and be critical of each other based on a consideration of how strictly observant we are or aren’t.

In a wonderful piece titled “Labels are for Suits” on Chabad.org1, Shalom Paltiel writes, “The problem is the labels. Every Jew has a label! Orthodox. Conservative. Reform. Reconstructionist. Modern. Traditional. Secular. Religious. The list goes on. Where did all these labels come from? Do you think for a moment that Moses organized the people of Israel around Mt. Sinai in accordance with their denominational affiliations? Of course not. These labels are not rooted anywhere in Torah or classical Jewish literature. They are recent inventions that serve absolutely no purpose other than to divide our people. And this, at a time when we need each other more than ever. I think all agree more unity is what we need.”

I suspect that many of us who are not very observant cherish our Jewish identity, values, and spirit just as strongly as our more observant brethren. Our strength as a community will endure and grow from inclusiveness, acceptance, and mutual respect.