PHILADELPHIA (JTA) – “I don’t know any Jews who go to temple.”
The line is from a remarkably poignant scene in the 2004 film “Garden State,” in which Zach Braff’s character explains to his love interest, played by Natalie Portman, a few things that most non-Orthodox American Jews know about large suburban synagogues.
“The Jews I know,” Braff continues, “they go on one day, on Yom Kippur, the day of repentance. Did you know that most temples are built with moveable walls so that on the one day of the year, when everyone comes to repent, they can actually make the room big enough to hold everyone?”
The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans, which was issued the same week that I was appointed leader of the Reconstructionist movement, was seen by many in the American Jewish community as evidence that the sky was falling, for precisely the reasons articulated by Braff’s character. Many American Jews proudly identified as Jews but did not meaningfully take part in most expressions of organized Jewish life, except for once or twice a year on holidays. [Read more…]