All Israel’s Children: Reconsidering Patrilineal Descent Dialogue Report
Rabbi Hannah Dresner offers this report following the All Israel’s Children Dialogue Project.
April 29, 2021 | 17 Iyyar 5781
I write to you sitting in the traditional unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Watuth Coast Salish Peoples, with a summary report of Or Shalom’s recent All Israel’s Children Dialogue.
This summary was drawn from notes taken in each breakout group, messages entered in the Zoom chat, email messages sent after the dialogue, and comments during a debrief session with the facilitators. We all owe gratitude to Shelley Stein-Wotten for her initial merge of our dialogue notes and chat messages, and to Mark Winston for his help in categorizing your comments and editing this document. Reading the notes, you will see how fulsome they are, expressing a spectrum of longings and concerns and, above all, respect for, pride in, and love for the Or Shalom community.
To begin, a singular comment stands out that signals the seriousness of our endeavor: “Our ancestors probably would say Judaism is already extinct.” A few years ago, when we studied with the cutting-edge Talmud scholar, Rabbi Benay Lappe, she noted something similar, but with a very different conclusion. She said that our ancestors would not recognize the Judaism of today, and, further, that Judaism will continue into the next generations in forms that we will not recognize. Judaism has prevailed because it is elastic and evolving, one paradigm rolling into another over the centuries. Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal, believed that we are experiencing a shift in paradigms. What a time to be alive!
Emerging from a pandemic, we live in what Dr. Gershon Sholem called a “plastic moment,” wherein change is particularly possible because of the flexibility we have acclimated to, of necessity. What a marvelous opportunity we have — to shape our future, and what a serious responsibility that is.
In the week of the Omer in which we contemplate the quality of hod — humility and awareness of our limits — let us admit that we do not know all. We don’t have all the answers. We are feeling our way, challenging our assumptions as we listen to one another’s stories and collectively striving to improve the life for our community by meeting real human needs.
What emerges from the record of our listening is that we have moved one another….