The New Ten Commandments
By Brian Thomas, Class of 2015, Whippany, NJ
As a Rutgers student that grew up in a loosely-practicing Jewish household and attended synagogue and youth programs associated with the Reform movement, I have long struggled with my own Jewish identity, especially coming from a town with little in the way of a Jewish community. About two years ago I began to explore my Jewish identity and ask myself how being Jewish would affect my life and what it would mean to me. To sum up my experience, I realized that I identify strongly as a Jew and have made it a goal to constantly study with various rabbis in the community and continue learning through college and young-adult programs.
Often I ask myself how I can reconcile my secular American identity with my confirmed Jewish identity, or even if this is possible. I also sought to do this outside of the typical trifecta of the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements as to steer clear of any overarching ideology or agenda that might not fully suit me. Over the past two years I have been struggling with these, and many other questions, but in her new campaign called, “The Ten New Commandments”, Archie Gottesman may have some answers.
After several studies, including the most recent and popularized Pew Research study, have reported a declining state of Jewish life in America, Ms. Gottesman, the Owner and Chief Branding Officer of Manhattan Mini Storage and Edison ParkFast, thought that she could bring her own expertise in the area of branding and marketing to the issue. “The New Ten Commandments” identifies the core principles that have kept our Jewish culture alive throughout the millennia. Ms. Gottesman then artfully “rebrands” them into this list of straight-forward and surprisingly simplistic guidelines on how to strengthen and maintain our Jewish roots while still allowing for our participation in American culture.
Some of the commandments are ones that we’ve heard before, such as “VIII. Join a synagogue”, “IV. Get to Israel” or “VII. Jewish camp” but most of them are fresh looks on these core principles. Themes like the age old echo of “marry Jewish” and the expectation to “find a connection with God” appear on the list but in a different form. They read, “I. Have Jewish grandchildren” and “II. Belief in God is not required”. These reflect a wider, more inclusive understanding of American-Jewish culture than has predominated in the minds of many Americans who are leaving the Jewish community.
Ensuring that you have Jewish grandchildren both encourages you to carefully think about what you truly want for you family and the Jewish people, while also being open to “non-traditional” marriages, the important aspect being Jewish children (and subsequently Jewish grandchildren). When talking to many friends of mine who are on the fringes of the Jewish community, often remaining detached from Jewish culture while still keeping “a toe in the water”, I find that they feel inclined to accept beliefs that they don’t fully understand and don’t necessarily agree with in order to be a part of the Jewish community. The way that Archie Gottesman presents the topic of “belief in God” is more inclusive than the traditional view, and allows more Jews to feel like an active part of the Jewish community while finding their own understanding of their place within it.
In the end, The New Ten Commandments provides a list of actions that we all can apply to our daily lives today. All of them are inclusive to the broad range of Jewish identities that exist in America and, I feel, give an invitation to American Jews to participate in Jewish culture. I personally want to thank Archie Gottesman for opening up this dialogue with Rutgers students at Hillel this past semester, and for guiding us to ask ourselves about the future of the Jewish people in America. I encourage you to read Ms. Gottesman’s “The New Ten Commandments”. When you do so, remember that we may not all agree on the right way to practice Judaism or live a Jewish lifestyle, but I hope we can at least all agree on some core ideas in our modern American-Jewish society. I believe that Archie Gottesman may have found what many of these are.
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