Written by: Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
Looking about in this room, we see a beautifully diverse community with members from varied Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds. Our synagogue is affiliated with the Conservative movement, but we have members who come from Reform, Reconstructionist and Orthodox backgrounds. I myself have practiced Judaism, touching every one of these denominations and at times, none at all. I have had the privilege and freedom to choose an orthodox lifestyle in my youth and to attend a pluralistic seminary to become a Rabbi in my 40’s. And during many of those in-between years, I was also an unaffiliated Jew who attended the sanctuary of mother nature rather than the synagogue down the road. But what always pulled me back into relationship with Judaism was its honoring of a multiplicity of voices as reflected in our sacred texts and the ever-evolving nature of Jewish life. Our rituals and beliefs had the foundational strength to remain intact and support Jews through countless persecutions and as well as the resilience to evolve through the ages. I personally adored Talmud and the way in which our religion enshrines minority views along with majority opinions. Hillel and Shammai rarely if ever agreed, but we remember their discourse and honor their differing points of view. Judaism has never been monolithic nor have the Jewish people ever been homogenous.