If I gave you the CliffsNotes version of my Jewish experience, you might ask me, “Are you Reformadox?” With the same cursory information about any one of my sisters, you might ask them, “Are you post-denominational, or Jewish-adjacent?” If you asked my father what movement or term he felt best applied to him, he’d probably just say, “Conservative”, followed by, “What does it matter, I go to a conservative shul every Saturday morning, why would anyone need to know more than that?”
We are all members of a Reform synagogue, and I bet we all knew generally what “Reform” meant when we joined our temple. On various levels, we accept the “Reform” designation and many of the things that come with it. It certainly helps Jews who share Reform movement values find us, and gives non-Jews a better idea of what to expect when they visit our temple. However, the Reform label does not really capture much of who we are or why we have become part of the community of Congregation Beth HaTephila.
I think labels are tricky things, useful for CliffsNotes or for signaling basic information to others about our affinity groups or interests. I am wary, however, of how a label can distract from or interfere with getting to the nuanced story behind the label.
The full story of my father’s Jewish experience is rather convoluted. He was not raised in a Jewish household as a young child. It was only after he came to this country that the family joined a synagogue. He went on to become a kibbutznik, learn modern Hebrew, move to Israel for a time, and only many decades later join a Reform synagogue after my eldest sister was born.
Each of us has our own “Jewish Journey” (to use another label), a longer story that brought us to our Reform synagogue in Western North Carolina. One of the great things we get to do in our community is share our longer stories, and I have had the privilege of hearing some of these stories from our members. I hope you have too, and look forward to the chance to hear more of them.