I have done a great deal of soul-searching on this subject and expect to do quite a bit more. Nevertheless, I would love to hear your opinions on it. Could I be a convinced Friend and a new convert to Judaism? I see them both as paths that lead to the Almighty and "choosing" one over the other is not an option for me. I'm sure we as a community have talking about this before but I would like some weighty advice.

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There is no head of the Jewish Faith.  Of course someone can be a Jewish Quaker.  After all, what religion is G-d? 

There is an infinite source.  Wisdom is infinite.  We all have a piece of infinity.  Every piece of infinity is infinite.

 

I should add - I have a great book on Jewish Mysticism.  In that book, by a respected Jewish author (even in orthodox circles) - the holiest prayer in Judaism actual says:

The Name of the G-d of Israel is both the many and the one.

 

When I went to a Hindu Temple, I inquired about their statues.  Were they idols?  Non-hindus might think so.  But one guy there said they are like icons on a computer.  They are just links to the same divine everyone else links to through their method.

 

If G-d can be Jewish and Quaker, why not a human?

 

Personally, I think labels are for shirts.

My 2 cents. (I guess that is finite!)

i am also looking for this conversation. trying to have it within my meeting has been difficult. i don’t understand how corporate worship works if none of us believe the same thing or agree to focus on the same thing during worship. i don’t understand how we can thrive and grow as meetings if we can’t explain who we are in some sort of comprehensive manner. i don’t understand how we can live with ourselves in the face of the integrity testimony when our faith and practice says something that is so remarkably different from the reality of individual meetings.
Speakin' my mind, Tom!
This is a very thoughtful response, Steven. For me, there is no polytheistic reality.  And although I would fight for your right to claim there is, for me, there is only One God in that meetingroom, and it is the God of Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses and the Man from Nazareth. I would passionately oppose the crafting of any "message" that attempted to express such a blasphemy! :) Peace to you.

If we believe that there is that of God in everyone, then all from any faith tradition could be a Quaker. Being touched by the divine is deeper than your accident of birth but is a reflection of your spiritual journey. As a start of our understanding of organized religions we should recognize that most religions became state religions, then became instruments of conquest. With that in mind we can better understand their enabling texts and  understand why faith and national boundaries are so connected. The idea that there is only one path is as realisitc as there is only the United States and that other countries can be successful if they believe and function as we do. There is jingoism in everything.

 

We must see what we share, what we have in common more than the nuances that separate us. I have been enriched by Christians, Buddhist, Muslims,Hindus and native traditions. Faith is like the story of the blind people describing an elephant, we fill in the blanks on that which we do not see or do not understand. How could the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Buddha not be at home and comfortable with the deeper beliefs that unite us all. The underlying question is why is it so important to people to think that there is only one spiritual path and that all others are somehow inferior? I think the answer says more about them than it says about their faith.

I'm about as weighty as helium, but it seems to me the question is can you be a convinced Friend and a new convert to Judaism, and that you're the only person who can answer it.

Hi David,

Speaking from personal experience with and knowledge of Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox (Chasidic) Judaism, I can state with complete confidence that there is, in fact, no head of the Jewish faith. First, although there is a Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Presidency of the Rabbinate alternates between two rabbis from two quite different traditions, precisely because there is no single authority or authoritative tradition. Second, although the Chief Rabbinate is the highest legal authority on questions of Jewish law as they relate to the Israeli government, it most certainly is not considered a final religious authority by all (or most, or I suspect almost any) Orthodox Jews living in Israel. Third, any and all religious authority of the Chief Rabbinate is limited to Israel and the members would be laughed out of town (at best) if they attempted to claim authority beyond Israel's borders. Fourth, it's unlikely that more than a tiny minority of the millions of non-Orthodox Israeli Jews consider the Chief Rabbinate to have any religious authority, whatsoever, and many are none too pleased by the relationship between the CR and the government. Proposing the Chief Rabbinate as the supreme Rabbi(s) of Judaism is, at best, roughly analogous to asserting the Pope as the supreme religious authority of all Christians (Quakers included).

Beyond all this, though, and ultimately more important, is that the very concept of a supreme religious authority has been foreign to Judaism for many hundreds of years. Explaining this would take more time than I have (and more text than I suspect anyone would want to read), and I'm not the best-qualified person to do it, so I'll leave you with the following:

There's a story recorded in the Talmud (around the 3rd century CE) that tells of a long debate between the disciples of the 1st century Rabbi Hillel and those of his contemporary, Rabbi Shammai. For three years the two schools debated, but neither would yield to the other. Finally, a voice spoke from heaven and said, "Both these [Hillel's opinions] and these [Shammai's opinions] are the words of the living God, but the law is in accordance with the rulings of the House of Hillel." A similar spirit still underlies Judaism, except that there haven't been only two dominant schools for ages: each Orthodox Jewish community follows it's own interpretive/legal tradition, albeit with common roots in the scripture and ancient sages, and (with some exceptions) each is recognized as valid by the others. 

The bigger question under discussion is, obviously, much more complex and far less amenable to a simple, factual response. I might try to post some thoughts later on, if I have any that seem worth sharing.

Peace,

Aaron

 

I should have also mentioned that, before the State of Israel was established, many (probably most) Orthodox Jews were anti-Zionist, believing the founding of a "Jewish" state in the land of Israel before the coming of the Messiah to be contrary to Jewish law and basically heretical. Even today, hundreds of thousands of particularly devout Orthodox Jews don't recognize the State's legitimacy, and I can't imagine that they recognize the Chief Rabbinate as a religious authority! There are also plenty of non-Orthodox Jews, like myself, who see the State of Israel (at least in its present form) as far more of a threat to Judaism than a fulfillment, and I doubt you'll find any of our sort deferring to the Chief Rabbinate.

Thank you, Thank you all. Bless us all that we can find fellow Quakers, a deeply spiritual religious and cultural tradition that has long been able to transcend the cultural traditions founded on the deep callings of Hillel, The Balshem tov, Ellie Wisel and Jesus (all Jews) were all such formative figures and important storytellers in my spiritual development.

I do not choose one spirit over others. I would also withhold judgement of any culture. I practice ritual - simplicity is at the foundation of my life and my life is an art as well as a process. I hope to continue to learn from my Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish Friends.

Thanks for your contributions, blessings and gratitude

 

Jess,

I see that these posts were written a long time ago.  I've enjoyed reading this discussion.  

Now I'm wondering how you feel about these things:  about your initial quandry.... where you've evolved to so far, or if instead of it being an evolution you feel simply called to remain equally present to both the Jewish and the (Christ-based) Quakerism?  

I fully believe both are possible and that "you could be a mystic, if...." this applies to you...

Wishing you blessings on the journey...

[Craig's comment above may have been your response, sent through him...though I wasn't totally sure I should assume that....and also it's been more than a year ago anyway.]

Certainly.  Jesus himself was Jewish as we all know.  The decision to create a new religion around him came later and I've never blamed him for that.  Quakerism is a path away from literalism, typically associated with Protestant Christianity.  Many Quakers are also Buddhist, as are many Jews.  The problem is more with the labels, in saying a person *is* this or that (why "or"?). 

Building one's identity around these traditions is work no matter what one does, so best to choose work you will respect yourself for doing and look back on with satisfaction.  I'm happy to have at least some sub-sects within Quakerism actively divorcing themselves from Christianity (mainly for branding reasons), a move which may begin with recognizing Jesus was himself Jewish.

Dear Friend,

I dunno whether thou art still in the position of choosing and considering this, or  movedst on into some direction – which would be very interesting to know about – but thy earlier words on feeling both jewish and quaker speak to my own condition now. I am from Vilnius, Lithuania, which, as a city, has a rich and very tragic history of local jews (ashkenazi litvaks) who compirsed almost half of it's pre-WW2 population (before the Holocaust) and was almost wiped out entirely. I cannot express how right it feels for me to adopt and learn jewish ways and spiritual inheritance in the face of utter absence of jewish Vilne (as it was called). At the same time I helped establish some first quaker group in town and am convinced, listed member of RSoF (through EMES and Brit.YM, Scand.YM).

Light (Ohr) is strong in us! :))

Writest me and sharest your path, if you like, Friend (Chaver)! :)

Yours – Algis

algis@demos.lt, +37061006699 

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