Thursday, March 29, 2012

Denominational Dilemma: Or the Fun of Not Adequately Having a Description of Your Jewish Denominational Affiliation

Warning: though I try to make my posts on Judaism accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike, I feel that this particular post may be particularly difficult for some less used to the Jewish denominational tussle. Sorry!

To start:

I'm Conservative/Masorti, with very heavy Reconstructionist practice influence, and a bit of liberal Modern Orthodox influence, who swings between Reconservastructionism and Conservadoxy, who also has fondness for Sephardi practices and a really weird view of Halakha. Oh, and the fact that I'm out of the closet makes things deliciously complicated at times.

That's how I think of my Judaism. But that's too long. And it boxes badly. And people want boxes.

I identify as needed sometimes. In certain contexts, "Reconstructionist-" particularly in regards to certain wordings in prayers vis-à-vis the idea of a "chosen people" (a concept on which I could write another lengthy blog post). In most contexts, "Conservative" - I look for Conservative synagogues, I read various things from a Conservative point of view, I strongly prefer Conservative siddurim (Va'ani Tefilati or Sim Shalom), and, well, I was raised in a liberal Conservative shul. When I'm bridging the gap, "Conservastructionist."

Sometimes I simply say "not Orthodox, not Reform." Even then, that can occasionally run into strange questions. My prayer group (Conservative/Reconstructionist/Reform that has a generally liberal Conservative service) uses a generally Reform siddur, and then my grandparents - like most South African Jews - are nominally Orthodox, so I've been exposed to a lot of Modern Orthodox practice as well.

"Not Orthodox, not Reform," however, is probably the most accurate at this point.

Even within the streams that I do identify with, I have some issues with that identification. This problem is particularly acute with Reconstructionism for me - I sometimes feel that very beautiful aspects of  Judaism, or G-d, or tradition, gets reduced or thrown out of the window in thought and practice. Sometimes, I also have problems with identifying as Masorti - particularly in regards to the main movement's understanding of halakhah.

Then we hit the question of being gay and Jewish. Traditionally, Reform and Reconstructionists have been the most welcoming, but Conservative Judaism is really warmly welcoming now, too. However, I still get some odd feelings occasionally. The movement is pretty split on homosexuality, and one can find the whole range of opinions. It is not always the best idea to mention being queer in a Conservative/Masorti environment.

But I don't think that really matters. I've been in a Conservative service with a majority LGBT crowd (NUJLS, anyone?), and I've also felt a really warm welcome in many Conservative communities, even though most of the time I say nothing about my being on the "rainbow spectrum." Halakhic disputes aside, I do not think it would be a contradiction to say "I am an openly gay Conservative/Masorti Jew."

Does denomination matter? I would like to think not, but for many people, it does. I must admit, it matters for me too - from basic things like finding a place to be on Friday night, to more complex questions of approaches and ideas. Then there are the questions. I'll consider the garbled statement above, then, my own declaration of denominational identity, or lack thereof. If a shorter answer is needed, I might just start saying "that is difficult to explain."

No comments:

Post a Comment