The Establishment is Not an Idol

The Establishment is Not an Idol

by Liz Fisher, Managing Director, NEXT

At this week’s Jewish Futures Conference, Rabbi Laura Baum led a text study on Abraham and his bravery in smashing idols. At our tables, we were instructed to confide in each other: What are the idols in the Jewish community? What “idols” would you smash? Esther Kustanowitz has already blogged some of the responses. Others can be found by searching #jewishfutures on Twitter.

As an educational exercise, this conversation was terrific. It got people talking. It broke up the formality of the room. Rabbi Baum pushed us, and gave us space to vent their grievances. I was grateful to her for doing so.

But as a metaphor, idol-smashing falls apart for me. The idols mentioned – JCCs, synagogues, b’nai mitzvah, Federation – fall into the general category of “the establishment.” Those things are not idols. Idols are worshiped with blind devotion. Idols are shells. Idols have no meaning. Idols are empty, and always were.

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