You can get closer, and without Hebrew or trying to figure out synagogue culture.
Let’s just get this out of the way. There are no bad Jews, and no wrong way to be Jewish. Yes, there are many messages that we have gotten over the years, that might lead you to think that Hebrew, keeping Shabbat, and going to services are essential for Jewish living. That just isn’t true. There are many ways to be Jewish, and there always have been.
What is true is that there is a Jewish vocabulary, literacy and culture that might seem hard to penetrate. Even when people are nice and welcoming, there can be a gap towards feeling like you belong.
Now, let’s talk about you. What is your image of what Judaism is all about, and your wish for living Jewishly? What is your story? Finding yourself Jewish adjacent, converting, parenting a Jewish child, resenting your crappy Jewish education or just fascinated by Judaisms, you have a place here. Because here, we practice a whole different flavor of Jewishness open to any level of Jewish education.
My name is Greg Marcus, and I am a passionate to help you become more connected to Jewish Living in a very personal and relevant way. I grew up in a Reform Jewish household, and was pretty much a twice a year Jew for much of my life. My wife converted to Judaism after 20 years of marriage and after both our daughters became Bat Mitzvah. The thing that changed everything for me was Mussar, a 1000 year old Jewish spiritual practice that gives guidance for an everyday life filled with kindness, self-reflection, and awe.
Mussar helped me discover that my workaholism was grounded in low self-esteem, and gave me tools and a path towards healing and a better life. I founded American Mussar to bring an open and innovative framework to this wonderful practice. My hand is out with an invitation for you to join me.
If you’ve never heard of Mussar, you are not alone. Mussar was always a niche within the Jewish world, and most of the people who taught or practiced it were killed in the Holocaust. Some within the Orthodox world consider Mussar the crown jewels of Jewish wisdom. Others think that Mussar is like castor oil, something you do only if you are bad in need or correction. Most people don’t know what it is really about, even if they have heard of it. That means that you are on a level playing field with people who have a much deeper Jewish education.
If you are into Judaism but don’t know if Mussar is for you….
There are many ways to get closer to Judaism and build an authentically Jewish life that doesn’t fit the mold of traditionally observant practices. My absolute favorite resource for this kind of info is the Judaism Unbound Podcast. (You can hear my interview on Judaism Unbound here.)
Your journey is unique. I’d love to hear more about your situation and offer a few suggestions to help you live Jewishly with meaning and relevance.
If you are looking for guidance on traditional Jewish observances like keeping Kosher, this probably isn’t for you.
This is for you if you are Jewish, Jewish adjacent, or just Jewishly curious, and would like some ideas to make Jewishness more meaningful and relevant to your life. Secular, cultural, spiritual and yoga Jews welcome. Parents, grandparents, singletons, Jews by choice, Israelis… You get the idea. And if you aren’t ready to talk, there is a list of Mussar resources below.
If you would like to talk to Greg, please use the form below.
Excerpt about Mussar from The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance through the Soul Traits of Mussar.
What is Mussar? on on MyJewishLearning.com gives a more historical perspective
Preview of Greg’s Mussar book The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions on Kindle
Five Ways Mussar Can Make Halloween Jewish For Your Kids