I found myself staying in California near a large Conservative synagogue where I attended High Holy Day services. Though it’s a place where it’s usually hard to get a minyan, for these days the place was packed. Three policemen checked our I.D.s as we entered. The rabbi gave four sermons.

This is what the rabbi said: “Time is precious because we all must die. Spend your time on things that are meaningful to you. That should include:

  • feed the hungry (bags were provided to fill with cans of food for Pastor John to distribute from his church);
  • work for universal healthcare;
  • work to end homelessness;
  • increase your Jewish learning;
  • work for immigration reform.” (meaning amnesty for illegal Mexican migrants). This, in brief, is the Democratic Party platform.

This is what was missing from the rabbi’s sermons:

  • any mention of Israel;
  • the terror attack which had just taken place in Israel on 26 September (between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur) and took the lives of three extraordinary young men, an Ethiopian, an Ashkenazi, and an Israeli Arab, all Israeli border guards;
  • the doubling of anti-semitic incidents in the U.S. this year especially on campus, where Jewish students are constantly threatened and challenged, especially if they support Israel;
  • an explanation for the armed guards and what that means to us as American Jews.

As I walked home, with a heavy heart, I passed a large church and realized I could have heard the same thing there, even the ‘Jewish learning’ part, as many churches are now embracing that. It’s clear why American Jews have stopped going to synagogue in record numbers. There is no ‘there’ there.

Article by Author/s
Helen Applebaum
Helen Applebaum is an artist, writer, and teacher who has lived in New York City for most of her life. Her artwork is in the permanent collection of the Museum of the City of New York. Her articles have appeared in Women in the Arts newsletters, Art Times Journal, and Salt Magazine. She has visited Australia six times and plans to relocate there soon.

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