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Right before he made full-time Aliyah to the State of Israel, Rabbi Dow Marmur z”l pulled me aside and said, “I am on an advisory board, and now that I am leaving, you are on an advisory board.”  I had little choice in the matter, and of course it was one of the best things to have happened to me so early in my rabbinate – to take Rabbi Marmur’s place as the rabbinic advisor to HaShomer HaTzair’s Jewish-Arab coexistence programs in Canada.  The program has continued to thrive, likely in spite of my own influence.

This memory came to me when reading, “On Being a Jew: A Reform Perspective” by Rabbi Marmur this week, which I hope you’ll excuse me for quoting from at length.  In this section Rabbi Marmur is lamenting that the Jewish establishment has taken Emil Fackenheim’s 614th commandment at the expense of the other 613.  He crafted a compelling vision of Judaism in his teaching and his action.  He wrote:

"We could disguise our disregard for the 613 commandments and claim fierce loyalty to the State of Israel in the name of survival.  Israel became identified with the 614th commandment that replaced all the others.  This book, while affirming the centrality of the land of Israel, offers a very different view.

Things have changed in the course of the last decade.  To start with, the political map of Israel has been altered. Our loyalty to the Jewish state need no longer be in conflict with Jewish values… Progress towards peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs has helped us realize that the quest for our own survival is intimately bound up with our concern for the survival and well-being of others, even of our enemies.

We also understand that when we do God’s will by acting according to the teaching of God’s Torah, we will deserve to live on, as Isaac did – even when we appear to be in peril, as he was.  Even ardent secularists have learnt that survivalism as a doctrine may be comforting to Jews traumatized by the Holocaust, but it is meaningless to their children.  They want to know why they should survive before they accept that they should survive.  Hence the renewed reemphasis on religious life despite all secular temptations.  Religious liberalism has meaning again; Reform Judaism is not just form but content. This book tries to articulate that content.  (On Being A Jew, 1994, emphasis is mine)"

This was the unique post-Holocaust voice of Dow Marmur, and it is something I seek to live up to in my rabbinate.  Our Reform Judaism – our synagogue is not just form, but also has transformative counter-cultural content.  It has values to live by, and rituals to tie us to those values.  It ties us to Israel, to the Jewish People past and present, and – most importantly- to an identity we can be proud of.   My rabbinate, and our community, is an attempt  to articulate that content.

Join the Marmur family shiva this Friday (22 July) from 2-4pm here: 

Meeting ID: 834 5536 5332       Passcode: 583079

The recorded Levoya can be watched here:

And read the Reform Judaism memorial here:

His memory is a blessing.

 Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jordan