Activity: The Isolated Jew?

The aim of this activity is to focus attention on the individual Jew’s dependence on the Jewish community and examine whether this relationship has changed over time.

  • Ask the participants for which functions a minyan is needed. List them on the board [Kaddish; the public reading of the Torah and Haftorah; the priestly blessing; the repetition of the Amidah, and - for some - the Barechu]. Point out that these represent some of the most central aspects of the whole experience of prayer and devotion. Discuss why this may be so. What does it tell us about the traditional attitude of Judaism towards community?
  • In small groups, the students should try to work out an optimum number of reasons why the community would be necessary for the individual Jew. Bring all the students together and share their responses. Use the list of seven reasons suggested earlier to explain why the community has achieved such importance. Ask whether it would have been possible in the pre-modern age to live a fully Jewish life as an isolated Jew without a community.
  • Now ask when the community rose to supreme importance in Jewish history. Suggest the destruction of the Second Temple as a turning-point and ask the students why this may have had a strong effect on the conception of community. Explain the significance of the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and what was left of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Israel, and the changes and developments that the rabbis at Yavneh began.
  • We now suggest a pre-prepared debate among the students on the subject:

    IN THE MODERN WORLD, THE INDIVIDUAL JEW IS LESS DEPENDENT ON THE JEWISH COMMUNITY FOR LIVING A JEWISH LIFE.

  • One or two members of the group should present and oppose the debate. After the formal debate has ended, the participants should vote on the issue and you should ask people to explain their opinions.


 

 

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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0