Ruth Messinger: "What is Religion for?"- November 19, 2001
My vision is of a place and time when service by Jews, in a Jewish context, has become a rite of passage in and for the Jewish community, something that Jews are expected to do. People will be taken outside of themselves to work for social justice in a place or with people who are 'the other,' in some ways different from themselves, doing this in a Jewish context and, in the process, transforming the participants. Why? We are at a new point in our lives as American Jews. We enjoy new affluence and security. At the same time, there is immense need in the world. Millions of people are victims of poverty, hunger, disease and oppression. American Jewry will be significantly shaped by our ability to respond not only to Israel and to Jews in need but to all people in need around the world. A new model of Jewish service needs to be articulated that is informed both by Jewish sources and by the radical new challenges of our time.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What kind of “service” is Messinger referring to? How could this service serve as a "rite of passage" for all Jews? Have you had this kind of an experience?

2. The world’s very first brother, Cain, asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Are we? What level of care and intervention does this responsibility place on us?

3. How does Messinger’s vision blend the particular and the universal trends of Judaism?

Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)