Monday, 31 March 2014

Why are references important when we submit work?

The reason we need references is so that we can see where you have got things that we don't recognise or understand, and if necessary check them out.

Sometimes we learn new information by this means, but sometimes the source has been misunderstood or misinterpreted, or, more likely, it is something out on the fringes and certainly not the main or standard reason or explanation, and in the absence of the main or straightforward understanding, it simply gives a skewed, or, to be frank, wrong or at best quite incomplete, explanation.

The more reading (and watching movies, documentaries etc) you do, the fuller and more rounded picture you will build up - PROVIDED they are from a variety of different viewpoints around the main and straighforward understanding.   Unfortunately a large amount of material on the internet is from a very traditional/mystical perspective (Chabad etc).  This neither represents the majority of Jews in the world today, nor mainstream Jewish thinking.  So if you read lots of this, it will not help you get a more rounded picture - on the contrary.  

The two core books for our Introduction to Judaism courses are 'A Judaism for the Twenty-First Century' and 'Living Judaism' (both available from in hard or electronic versions, or from They establish the centre of gravity, belief and understanding for our courses and for Progressive Jewish approaches.  Within that frame, the first is somewhat more liberal (in the original meaning of the word!) and the second is more conservative, so it is already describing a range.

The third and key core book is the prayer book 'Mishkan T'filah, World Union Edition'. Reading and absorbing these three, making notes and annotating favourite and striking parts of them, will set you up very well for understanding Judaism from a modern, Progressive perspective.  

Where is the Mysticism?

There is mystery and Spirituality in our Progressive Jewish approach, but perhaps not as much 'Mysticism' as you might expect or feel is suitable for your needs.

A student on the course once wrote me an angry and anonymous letter saying 'The Lubavitch Rebbe had more spirituality in his little finger than you have in your whole body'.  But she continued the course, owned up to the letter and apologised, confirmed her Jewish status with us, and has been involved for some years.  Just recently something caused her to recall this episode - she wrote to me 'I remember what I wrote to you - I'm glad you forgave me.  I did not understand then what I do now about Judaism'.


Rabbi Jonathan

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