Many Jewish homes have a copy of Isaac Klein’s “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice” on their bookshelves. My own copy was given to me by the synagogue in which I grew up. As the bookplate indicates, it was presented to Marisa and me in honor of our marriage on the occasion of our aufruf. Published in 1979, it is a detailed and comprehensive guide to Jewish practice at home and in the synagogue.
Although Klein’s Guide is still very much relevant and useful, The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement has just published a book which is destined to be the next general’s version of the Guide. The book, entitled “The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews,” edited by Martin S. Cohen, weighs in at 900+ pages, 50% larger than Isaac Klein’s Guide! Within the first 13 pages, the need for an updated guide for a Jewish life is apparent. There is a discussion of inserting the names of matriarchs into our prayers, something which was barely a blip on the radar screen in the 60’s and 70’s when Isaac Klein was writing his guide. There is also a discussion of joining a minyan via internet, something which was science fiction technology Isaac Klein’s world (see the Dear Rebbe column for an answer to this question).
At a recent board meeting, the president, Bill Lewis, posed an intriguing question: What is the role of a religious institution in a secular world? Those of you reading this column who have chosen to be a part of Congregation Ahavas Israel (or another synagogue community) presumably have some sort of answer, at least for yourself. “The Observant Life” suggests that the synagogue is an extension of the religious life of the individual Jew – a place of prayer, learning, and spiritual assembly. I suggest that the synagogue exists to support you in your quest to be an educated, observant, caring Jew, seeking to connect yourself with a like-minded community and/or with God.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, my family and I wish you a sweet new year, one in which the synagogue will play a role in your social, emotional, spiritual, religious, educational and/or cultural life.