Friday, October 29, 2010

A Field Guide to Non-Orthodox Jews -- for the Orthodox

In response to the recent publication of some offensive kiruv-schlock that attempts to explain Orthodox Judaism to non-Orthodox Jews , I have decided to write my own book on a related topic because I believe that a distressingly large percentage of the Orthodox community has a bizarre and misleading image of the non-Orthodox Jewish community. If you would believe this "Rabbi Baum," who wrote the kiruv junk referenced above, you would think that non-Orthodox Jews were all a bunch of pork-eating sex-crazed hedonists who spend every Shabbos going to the mall for shopping and finding the object of their Saturday night lust, whether someone of the opposite gender, someone of the same gender, or even a household pet! There's also the belief that the non-Orthodox Jews are all lonely, depressed, and otherwise miserable because they do not submit to Da'as Torah. (Of course, many Orthodox Jews do not hold by Da'as Torah, but they seem to be a beleaguered and rapidly shrinking community.) And, of course, all too many Orthodox Jews believe that non-Orthodox Judaism will disappear anyway, because its practitioners are too busy having sexual relations with people of the same gender or household pets to actually breed, and even if some random non-Orthodox couple manages to produce a halachically Jewish child, that child will grow up to become a celibate Buddhist monk or something.

Alas, for these triumphalists in the orthodox world, the reality of the non-Orthodox Jews world is much more complex. But the bottom line is that the vast majority of us non-Orthodox Jews are quite happy with our beliefs and lifestyle choices, even the the Orthodox believe them to be kefirah, and we really wish you would leave us alone and lay off the kiruv. I mean, we don't invite you over to our homes in the hope that you'll go off the derech, eat pork, and have sex with Fido or Mr. Whiskers, so why the expectation that we non-Orthodox should drop our professions, learn arcane religious texts full-time and do whatever your cult leaders, I mean "gedolim," tell us to do?

Anyway, without further ado, here is an outline of my book, which will appear in installments whenever I am motivated enough to write a chapter.

PART 1: What We Believe
Chapter 1: Why?
Chapter 2: What Really happened at Sinai?
Chapter 3: Free Will and the Meaning of Life
Chapter 4: What, exactly, is the Torah?
Chapter 5: Reward, Punishment, and why good things happen to bad people
PART 2: How Non_Orthodox Jews relate to one another
Chapter 6:Integrity and interpersonal relationships
Chapter 7: Men and Women
Chapter 8: Truth, "Morality" and ethics
Chapter 9: Sex
Chapter 10: Goyim and Orthodox Jews
Chapter 11: The State of Israel
PART 3: Identifying the non-Orthodox tribes
Chapter 12: More secular than Stalin
Chapter 13: Reform
Chapter 14:Conservative
Chapter 15: Reconstructionist
Chapter 16: Renewal
Chapter 17: None of the above & all of the above
APPENDIX: Illustrations of members of the various tribes
SPECIAL APPENDIX: The Yom Kippur Cookbook