I read recently that you have decided to build a synagogue at your kibbutz. As a reform rabbi with a kibbutz background, your decision has made me both happy and sad. I was thrilled to hear that you, the descendants of the original kibbutz, have chosen to inject a modicum of holiness and tradition to your lives. But I was saddened to hear you have chosen an Orthodox, non-egalitarian synagogue.
My friends, your fathers and mothers built an original, important, Jewish way of life. Why would you, of all people – men and women who make rational decisions with respect to all other aspects of your communal lives, and who have made painful sacrifices in order to make your community appropriate for the needs of today – why are you prepared to forego your control with regard to your Jewish spiritual life?
How could you, people who understand that cooperation and equality are more than mere slogans, but rather demands that must be repeated at every opportunity – how could you treat Judaism as some sort of singular, simplistic, one-faced beast? Are you really willing to declare yourselves guests in your own house and to accept religious philosophies that are not yours? Why would you agree to bring that empty truck of Orthodoxy into your community?
You want to come closer to Jewish tradition. Perhaps the Orthodox option that many Orthodox leaders present as the only legitimate Jewish alternative is the only tradition you are familiar with.
But please remember there are many faces of Judaism, and there are many ways to express one's Judaism. Please choose the path that is appropriate for you, one that reflects your ideology and the spirit you have created, and continue to create.
We, liberal Jews in Israel, have great respect for kibbutzim. Despite our differences and arguments, we view the kibbutz movement as an example of practical, creative and renewed Judaism.
As members of a living congregation, you have a unique contribution to make to Judaism today, and you have the ability to create something for yourselves.
No need for an elephant
Your synagogue can and should reflect your egalitarian and participatory way of life, and should be a focal point of creativity and building, especially at this complex point of time for kibbutz life.
A synagogue need not be a white elephant on the kibbutz grounds. It must be an institution that reflects the way of life of the community that builds it and needs it. It can be a community center in the broadest, deepest meaning of that term. That's the way it is, for example, at Kibbutz Lahav and Kibbutz Lotan, the Reform movement's kibbutzim. There, the synagogue serves as a home for prayer, study, members meetings, and it is an organic part of communal life.
Franz Oppenheimer once said, "We will retain the mitzvot that the Torah of Moses and the Torah inside our hearts command us when we come to build our country."
You, the sons and daughters of the kibbutz movement, breathed new life into Judaism by adding content and richness into such holidays as Tu B'Shvat, Lag Baomer, and Shavuot, and you even created your own holidays. When you reach out to Judaism, don't approach it submissively in the face of those who would paint themselves as "authentic" Jews.
Approach it securely, with a feeling of responsibility and rights, and with the happiness that comes with doing a mitzvah.
Rabbi Dr. Dalia Sara Marx is a teacher at the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College