This is a brief statement of revolutionary Judaism. In it we try to address some of the possible failings and potential answers to issues plaguing Judaism today. It is not an official statement of belief, but it is close. It is more like a letter written by two people who love Judaism, love their fellow Jews, and want to make the future a better place for all of us.
PunkTorah is proud to announce the fund-raising launch for OneShul.org, the world’s first web-based, community run synagogue.
OneShul was inspired by group of PunkTorah volunteers who began meeting online to daven with one another, using PunkTorah’s recently released Indie Yeshiva Pocket Siddur (available online and through ModernTribe.com). With the popularity of this “DIY Prayer Service” came the idea for a virtual synagogue without borders, based on collective Jewish values and spiritual independence.
“Synagogues are shutting down for the same reason that brick-and-mortar business are closing,” says Executive Director Patrick Aleph. “People live online and if you believe in being where people are, then you need to be there, too.”
Says PunkTorah Creative Director and “Alterna-Rebbe” Michael Sabani, “OneShul is an open synagogue for all of us to congregate, learn, lead, and empower each other. Traditional Jewish organizations and leaders have said that real community can’t be achieved online, or as they see it, synthetically. We challenge that notion. We say that yes, real community means communicating with each other in a meaningful way and that can be done online. We are proving it right now.”
OneShul is “independent” meaning that it does not tow a party line to any of the established Jewish movements. Instead, by being community ran, participants get to decide what kind of minyanim to make, the style of worship, etc. PunkTorah hopes that OneShul will be a diverse place, where all Jewish opinions are appreciated.
OneShul has already seen major success with its live, interactive Afternoon Prayer Services and Jewish classes, led by different members of the PunkTorah community via UStream. PunkTorah hopes to expand OneShul into something much larger, providing Kabbalat Shabbat, more holiday services, an “indie yeshiva” of Jewish books and blogs that are written collaboratively by volunteers, spiritual counseling via skype, a mobile davening app for the iPhone/iPad, tzedakah and tikkun olam programs, OneShul outreach houses across the country, volunteering and internship opportunities for students interested in Jewish communal service, and a launching pad for the spiritual future of the New Jew community. “Everything that a physical synagogue has, but better,” says Aleph.
To make this happen, PunkTorah has launched a fundraising drive through IndieGoGo.com and plans to raise $5,000 to create the “synagogue of the future”.
With OneShul, PunkTorah is challenging the notion that community only exists in neighborhoods. Says Michael Sabani, “Which community is more real? The one where I show up once a week and sit next to what is essentially a stranger, say ‘Shabbat shalom’ and then leave? Or the one I am in constant contact with through Facebook and Skype, who I know I can turn to in a time of need?”
To learn more about PunkTorah’s OneShul project, visit www.indiegogo.com/oneshul
PunkTorah is a non-profit (501c3-pending) organization dedicated to independent Jewish spirituality, culture, learning and debate.
Press Contact: Patrick Aleph
by Michael Sabani
Should you ignore something just because you don’t believe it? Can you still learn from it?
It was during a recent discussion with some friends about the Torah that I realized something that opened the Torah up for me almost completely.
We were discussing the different interpretations that one can have about things that happen in the Torah. I don’t want to get into specifics, but there was a questions as to what happened in a particular part of the story. Most everyone believed that one “counterculture” interpretation was true. In fact, they felt so strongly that it seemed they were almost offended to hear that a traditional or Midrashic interpretation could even be entertained. I was honestly kind of shocked. Not that they would entertain a view that doesn’t necessarily portray the patriarchs or matriarchs as saints because, let’s be honest, they weren’t! The issue I had was that they almost wouldn’t even listen, and when I did share, I felt like I was viewed almost as an anachronistic, ignorant, orthodox party pooper! And I most certainly am not!
What I learned is this:
We are a tradition full of ideas. You know that old saying, “three Jews, five opinions”. The thing is, when we hold on to one interpretation over another, when we almost outright refuse to listen to something from our own tradition that differs with what we want to believe, we are only cheating ourselves. In order to be informed, in order to be fully aware of what the Torah is trying to tell us, there has to be a balance. Just because you don’t like an idea, DOES NOT mean that you should run from it! Instead, embrace it! Look it right in the face and figure out exactly what you don’t like/believe about it. If, after you’ve listened you still don’t agree, GREAT! At least you learned something. And as people of the book we are called to always learn.
There is a saying from the sages that the Torah has 600,000 letters, and each represents one Jewish neshama, one Jewish soul. This means that there are as many ways to read the Torah as there are Jews who read it!
The sages also say that every letter of the Torah, down to the smallest yod ( ‘ ) is there to teach us a lesson. It would seem to me that in order to get the most out of the Torah, especially today, we should pay attention to even the smallest letters, especially when we disagree with it. Only through that friction can we release the Light, and only through that struggle can we brighten the world.
The whole concept of being off the derech bothers me because in my opinion there is no right derech, if we call those who aren’t observant or don’t follow the ways that they were brought up in we feel the need to belittle them. Oh he or she is off the derech sounds really crappy and I decided to put in my two cents on this situation.
I am constantly questioning and have my moments, but I am orthodox and it suits me well, but unlike many orthodox Jews, I don’t think that orthodoxy or being observant is for everyone. Like many people I know, I was brought up to believe that orthodox Jews were right and everyone else was wrong, but I think that belief is wrong, I have met many people that aren’t orthodox anymore and are great people, they are good Jews and I am cool with that, but many people aren’t.
I know some of you are already screaming blasphemy and the off the derech crowd (I use the terminology because it works best – but I don’t like it) are cheering for joy. I don’t even like the term authentic when combined with religion, religion itself has evolved so many times that we don’t even know if we are practicing the right thing anymore, hence the reason that I don’t have a hashkafa, I work on things I think are important (good thing the sages view most of these things as important too) but the second someone calls me a Torah Jew or Authentic Jew I cringe – seriously – it makes me feel that all of the other Jews out there practicing in ways foreign to the average yeshiva bochur aren’t real Jews and that is wrong.
I guess I never really learned how to be such a fundamentalist that I discard everything else as hogwash when my own religious practice is built on some pretty shaky ground and I am sick of having it proved to me from the 600,000 person revelation stuff, I believe but don’t think everyone should have to or be disregarded and treated harshly because of their varying beliefs.
By Heshy Fried
(Originally Posted Here)
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