Your front-page discussion about whether Judaism is a religion or a culture was very interesting but somehow misses an important element (Sept. 2). Today more than ever, we need to be as inclusive as possible, and by focusing on just these two aspects of Judaism, we leave a large percentage of Jews out of the picture.
As simply a religion, Judaism is but one of many belief systems out there that one could take or leave, as many have chosen to. As just a culture, we somehow miss out on the uniqueness of what gives the Jewish people an eternal identity with the ability to survive and thrive through the ages.
A third element adds a needed dimension to our Jewish identity. Whether a person believes or doesn’t believe in God today, we can’t deny the God-based launching of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai 3,323 years ago, based on a covenant that God made with Abraham and Sarah and their descendents 500 years before. This covenant has been the driving force behind the religion and the community of the Jewish people since our family first began, influencing our beliefs, social mores, life cycle events, language, dress and food choices, amongst others. As descendants of Abraham and Sarah we have forged a place for our family by striving to be a “light amongst the nations” and fulfilling a greater purpose as part of this covenant.
Whether a descendant of Sarah likes or dislikes the religion or the community, he or she is still a Jew like any other, and has the privilege, and obligation, of keeping the covenant together with every other Jew.
Rabbi Tuvia Teldon
of Long Island