Click here to meet Jessica.
She’s one of the 21 teen-campers I got to know the first week of July at our Reform Jewish camp near Parry Sound, Camp George. Our study-topic was, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People and other Questions I Can’t Answer.” The self-selected group came ready to think, to really listen to one another, and to be challenged by one another’s beliefs. They also came with BIG questions. Here are just a few of the anonymous questions they wrote on the first day we sat on the grass together.
Some about the Jewish People:
Was the whole Torah given to the Jewish People at Mount Sinai?
Why do we follow the Torah if so much of it is out of date?
Why do people twist the words from holy books for evil purposes?
If the Jews are the Chosen People, why are we always oppressed?
Some about God:
Does God actually exist?
If God is everywhere and everything, is it fair to assume the universe is either equivalent or similar to God?
What can God do?
Why does God allow evil?
If God is real, how can we have freewill “some” of the time?
Some very personal:
How do you know whether one decision can impact your whole life?
What is man’s purpose on earth?
Why do good people suffer?
Is there an afterlife?
How can you be surrounded by loving people, but feel so alone?
How do you see proof of God in your everyday life?
These teen-campers made an impression on me. They were articulate, curious, and grateful for the opportunity to reflect on their own beliefs and to be challenged by others. Some of the guys had to miss a class because of an overnight canoe trip. They found me later in the week to ask about what they missed. Clearly, our Jewish teens want a time and place to pursue their developing theologies with peers and teachers they can trust. Don’t we all?
The most recent edition of “Reform Judaism” magazine includes an article by Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro, who is remembered so fondly by so many who knew him when he was the Assistant Rabbi here at Holy Blossom.
Last Yom Kippur Rabbi Shapiro challenged his western Massachusetts congregation to take “The God Survey.” Now the rest of us are invited to participate as well. While Torah study and prayer will always be the best ways to reflect upon beliefs and hone faiths, this survey can be a useful tool to help us identify where we place ourselves on the spectrum of personal Jewish theology. All surveys are anonymous, but the collective results will be published in a future edition of “Reform Judaism” magazine. Click here to have a look.
Wherever your summer travels may take you – to Israel, the cottage, or some other beautiful spot – I hope you are inspired by the surroundings and take time for reflection and prayer. Who knows? God might enjoy the company.