Interview with Rabbi Cantor Judy Greenfeld
Rabbi Cantor Judy Greenfeld approaches traditional Judaism with spirituality and a goal to build an inclusive community. She isn't your ordinary temple rabbi in that she incorporates various spiritual healing practices in her teachings which she uses as a way to understand and open up to the ancient Jewish scriptures. In 2005, she founded Nachshon Minyan, a Jewish collective community that provides a welcoming space for everyone from all backgrounds, faiths, and levels of religious observance. One of her objectives with this inclusive community is to support Jews who want to improve their negative feelings towards Judaism. Throughout her journey, she has helped hundreds of individuals revive their Jewish traditions and rituals.
Rabbi Judy serves the greater Los Angeles community. She officiates various events, including weddings, baby naming's, funerals, conversions, and Jewish learning events. In an interview with Garden State Woman, Rabbi Judy provides positive insight into the negativity that persists in our country today.
- In America today, what are the roots for an ideology of hate?
"Unless you heal the root of a problem, the pain will not go away. You can hide from it, but the problem stays until you dig deep." — Leon Brown
Leon Brown was a major league baseball player and despite the odds he faced being a Black baseball player, he never gave up. He spent the end of his life training and inspiring young Black professional players. The fight against hatred is resilience. And it is not ignoring the problem but getting back up and moving forward.
I could write a dissertation on the roots of 'hate ideology' in America because there are so many contributing factors tangled into this dangerous belief system. Examining the roots of hatred from a religious and spiritual point of view, I say, "if only" we COULD get to the bottom of those roots; maybe we could rip them out for good. The hope would be to replace them with new healthy roots; of unity and justice for all.
My generation (product of the 60s) was taught to believe that racist ideology was born in the homes of the ignorant, xenophobes, and hateful, unpatriotic minds. I tend to agree with Ibram X. Kendi's discoveries reported in his 2017 article posted in the Conversation about the roots of racism. He insists that there are far more insidious roots to contend with hiding just below the surface. He believes that hate ideology in America is perpetuated by very intelligent well educated, and powerful people who "justify and use the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era's racial disparities away from those policies and onto black people, Jews, LGBTQ, women, or other minorities." He continues, racist ideas have always been like walls built by powerful Americans to keep us divided, and these walls have always normalized our racial divisions and inequities.
- Does religious ideology (Catholic and Protestant) foster hate?
Some Catholic and Protestant religious ideology has definitely fostered hatred towards each other and have redirected more reasons for hatred on other religious sects.
The root of this hatred is very black and white. There is little to no compromise of beliefs. To question is to defy religion and the result is to be excommunicated.
Catholics believe that faith in God alone is needed to get into heaven, a tenet known as sola fide. Protestants believe that both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven.
This divide and hatred were spurred in the 16th century with the beginning of the Reformation and forced the movement of fracture into Protestant Christianity. A number of factors contributed to the Protestant Reformation but at its core is the disagreement on the nature of salvation and by extension a number of doctrines including the sale of indulgences and more.
- Why is antisemitism a centuries old target for hate crimes?
First of all, the Jewish religion has been around for over five millennia, in fact just celebrated the year 5784.
As a people, we have survived the worst crimes and injustices in history and not been extinguished. It has weathered the exiles from Jerusalem, Egypt, Spain, and Eastern Europe.
Anti-semitism dates all the way back to the belief that the Jews killed Christ.
Which, although that statement was revoked, I still remember echoes of being called a "Christ killer."
The truth is that the Jewish people have always been a minority, blamed for diseases, slapped with propaganda and conspiracy theories of taking over the world.
The only place they are not is in Israel, and that is why its survival is so weighty.
The refrain from the satirist Tom Lehrer song says it all.
"Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Muslims
And everybody hates the Jews."
- If Words matter, how can TRUTH be defined as an educational tool against hate?
The tricky part of answering this question, is the notion of who's "words" are defining the truth?
And what is the TRUTH? when it comes to hatred?
How can this be an educational tool against hate?
Who is the author or speaker of those words?
How do we define truth?
According to Webster's dictionary, truth is the body of real things, events, and facts.
Truth is based on many different factors when it comes to science, sociologically, politics, economics, etc.
I can only speak from a Jewish perspective. I admire that this is a religion obsessed with the quest for truth through rational discourse. It is a religion that is based on moral truth and integrity.
Truth is found in what is constant, everlasting, enduring, timeless, unchanging. That is why I lean on the Jewish traditions, because I can trust its truth.
All that said, the predicament in America is that 'words' and truths can be interpreted and twisted in all kinds of ways to fit different realities and agendas. Therefore, the only way TRUTH can be an educational tool against hate is to hear every single definition of truth that exists in our society and then … decide if it is an adequate tool.
- What advice can you offer to heal our broken country?
As a Rabbi, I have been taught and what I teach is this fundamental responsibility that has been given to the Jewish people and that our actions matter. Like the great Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "It is not what you do inside the synagogue, it is how you act in the world that constitutes whether or not you are a 'good Jew.'" One of the most important mitzvot is called Tikkun Olam, which is achieved through our own kind actions.
My advice to heal our broken country is to take our actions seriously. And I tend to draw hope from the famous first century scholar, Rabbi Hillel. He was known for his profound answer to a man who wanted to know what the Torah was about in one sentence. He replied "treating your neighbor as you want to be treated is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary." In other words, the goal of Jewish practice and study depends on the capacity to view another person as real as one views oneself.
If each one of us framed our lives in this way, the ideology of hatred would not stand a chance.
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