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Why I became orthodox

Reader comment on item: The Orthodox Future of Judaism

Submitted by S. (United States), Jan 31, 2005 at 16:34

I enjoyed your article. I have had the pleasure of seeing you lecture. While I can't write as eloquently as the other people who posted comments I thought I would share my perspective as to why Orthodox Judaism is on the rise.

I started on the path to becoming observant four years ago. The reason is rather simplistic, Thanks to my wife I was lucky enough to find out what it meant to be an observant Jew. Like many people I was raised in reform/conservative synagogue. Attendance and involvement seemed to be without purpose for me as it did not provide any answers or reasons to basic foundational questions: Why be Jewish? What does it mean to be Jew? What do Jews believe? Yet like many others I knew there had to be more to it than what I had been taught.

I was led to believe that the difference between orthodox, conservative and reform was how religious a person was i.e. how many limitations they placed on their freedom of choice. So, if you don't like being conservative just think how bad it must be to be an orthodox Jew. I call it the bad medicine approach to Judaism. The less religious acts that you have to do the better. Of course I had my obligatory bar mitzvah and fled as quickly as possible. It's my understanding that the reform movement created the term "Orthodox" so they could have a way to label observant Jews.

What changed was I was exposed to an outreach organization where I was given the resources to answer my questions. I don't want to generalize but the reaction of the conservative leaders with which my family was associated was quite shocking. They tried to convince my family that I had joined a cult and filled their head with a lot of false information. It was quite obvious to me that they felt threatened. But why?

Let me use this analogy. Suppose there was a restaurant that was beautifully decorated but the food was bad. They gave you a bowl of mush to eat. Your parents took you to this restaurant because all your friends were going to the same restaurant and it was the only restaurant that your parents were aware of. You knew the food was bad but what choice did you have. Eat the mush or just avoid going to restaurants. Now suppose across the street from this restaurant was a small less fancy restaurant which didn't advertise. All that you knew about the small restaurant was what you had heard from your parents, out of ignorance, and from the owners of the fancy restaurant. They told you that the food at the small restaurant was much worse than their food and the building wasn't even nice so don't bother going there. One day the small restaurant starts to advertise. You decide to give it a try. To your amazement the food is excellent and nutritious. The owners of the big fancy restaurant with mush now have a problem.

Jews are becoming observant because the resources are now readily accessible for non-observant Jews to become educated in keeping commandments and thus have a relationship with G-d.

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