Jewish Journal


February 27, 2012

Judaism for the rich -how to practice religion in an atheist country


The dominant religion in the Swedish society will be – not to believe in god. That, and trying to be OK with everybody. The Swedes’ art will be: walking carefully between the challenges that are offered to you by those who are different to you, as a neo-liberalist without breaking anyone’s eggs. 
It’s common in Sweden to be common. Once you have settled that, you are now ready to step down to the bottom of questions in a much more profound way.

Israelis feel suppressed by a religious regime. Fighting for their right to be secular- religion will naturally become their number 1 enemy. Communistic East Europe diminished any chance to express a belief, so nowadays to balance it- excessive support will come on your way to “re-Jew” yourself as if Judaism has become missionary.  You will find yourself wondering which event to go according to what food they serve, because it’s clear they want you there, and that it will be free.

While in Stockholm, in order to become a member of the Jewish community you need to pay an additional fee to the already agreed high taxes that go to conventional educational system and health-care. It is a luxurious business and a special privilege to choose an extra- identity, as you are supplied with all what you are physically and spiritually needs.
When I state that, I have to make it clear that all of these cases which were mentioned (Israel, East Europe and Sweden) refer to citizens of the high-economical class. The Swedish community is so secular, that if I’m not mistaking, it is one of the only places they could afford having a program like Paidea, allowing Jews and non-Jews to explore Judaism to its finest details in a non-religious atmosphere.
Debates on Shabat dinner’s table at the Rabi Issak Nachman’ house would deal with the issue of what deprives human rights more: the circumcision of an 8 days old child- determining for him he’s fate- to belong to an ethnic group without his consent (“Just because God said so”) or- depriving a major portion of society their right to perform a traditional ceremony. (“Just because western culture said it’s barbaric”).

Jewish Stockholm was not necessarily the most spiritual experience, for me, but it was most defiantly a great intellectual one. I liked watching Judaism as a side ornament, a spice you add to your life and not something you run into out of fear or confusion. Maybe less emotional, maybe more rational, but it had a flavor I could easily feel comfortable with. No one imposes his rituals, and no one imposes his secularity. No one imposes his Zionism, and no one imposes his Swedish nationality.
I heard only one story about one Reform Rabbi that was insensitive enough to let his guests drink non-Kosher wine for Kidush, because he was performing the service like that (not asking what’s convenient also for the guest)- But that’s a different story.

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