A new phenomenon in Israel has been the rise of spiritual communities fusing their Israeli and Jewish identities, and thus producing a new type of loosely organized, “post-denominational” Judaism, without predefined rules and rituals, writes Eetta Prince Gibson in the Jerusalem Report (June 22).
While there are some genealogical links with Reform or Conservative Judaism, and some people involved now train to become Reform rabbis, these groups are not a North American import, and only a minority of people active in the emerging communities are immigrants (and mostly from the former Soviet Union). Thus, the communities can be described as a “search for an Israeli indigenously-inspired form of Judaism.” These groups vary in their practices, but tend to create their own rituals and may creatively mix elements from traditional Jewish prayers with new rituals, insights from Eastern tradition or guided meditation. Communal singing also plays a role, sometimes accompanied by drums and guitars.
The pluralism and the absence of hierarchical structures are appealing to secular Jews—who find in such groups adequate opportunities for expressing their connection to their Jewish roots. The emerging communities also attract people who were raised in religious homes, but no longer feel comfortable with standard religious ways. For many in the emerging communities, the traditional boundaries between “religious” and “secular” no longer make sense.
Those groups clearly perceive themselves as Jewish, while finding new ways for living a Jewish spirituality and acknowledging the principle of individual choice in a post-modern environment. They feel that they are creating ways for the perpetuation of Judaism, while Orthodox Jews are reluctant to view these groups as reflecting authentic Judaism. While people active in the Israeli emerging communities see little connection to the Jewish Renewal Movement in North America, some observers nevertheless see parallels between both expressions in terms of a “generational phenomenon.”
Recently, contacts between these movements have been made. According to the Jerusalem Report article, there are some 50 such groups in Israel, and 17 of them have formed the Israeli Network of Non-denominational Spiritual Communities, with a few more considering whether to join. They are not planning to become a registered entity at this stage, but feel that networking may help in sharing experiences.
(The Jerusalem Report, P.O. Box 1805, Jerusalem 91017, Israel, http://www.jrep.com)