The Jewish tradition has been re-articulated in response to many intellectual revolutions, from the rapid spread of Hellenistic thought by Alexander the Great 2,300 years ago to the invention of the movable-type printing press just half a millennium ago. Yet contemporary Jewish leaders are still working, and often struggling, to give voice to our belief system in the Information Age.
Even as our rabbinical texts are filled with pithy phrases, we struggle to revive them in 140 characters. Even as sacred parables are relatable on blogs, we seem loath to post them or add hyperlinks to related stories. Even as our prayer books are available online, we seldom (with some notable exceptions) see iPads displaying them in our synagogues. Even as many technology pioneers are Jewish, they often practice their religion offline.
I, too, as a future rabbi, am struggling to find my voice in the online din that reverberates in ways previously unseen (or unheard). Yet I am not only dealing with a new medium, but also a new and increasingly essential strand of thought: interfaith collaboration.
Most intentionally, I am working to fit my narrative into a broader spectrum of narratives, which together can be refracted into the white light of interfaith collaboration. My stories of search, disbelief and faith as a Jew are accessible and relatable to the similar stories of belief (or non-belief) that define the narratives of other leaders in the interfaith movement. While each of our stories is whole unto itself, it is magnified when placed in relation to other, analogous stories within different traditions. A narrative in conversation with other narratives can outline the ark of our increasingly pluralistic society.
Sitting down with two leading media professionals (thanks to a professional development grant), I began to find voice for my narrative, as it could be related on camera and on radio, in both cases online. Key to telling my own story was finding and accessing "my own voice," making sure it is authentic to who I am and what I believe. Likewise, I needed to "want it," to want my narrative in public and to find words that truly fit it. Without a genuine desire to share my narrative as part of a salient social movement, others wouldn't find it compelling.
In short, if I wanted to be a Jewish interfaith leader, I needed to hone my story so that it was not only personally meaningful, but meaningful and comprehensible to others. While the Internet is transforming media, so too is the interfaith movement transforming the way in which we relay our narratives as religious leaders. They are not simply stand-alone pieces but part of a movement that extends beyond our respective traditions. Drawing from the fountains of wisdom and inspiration within our own faith groups, we now have the opportunity to positively impact other religious communities.
With careful reflection and equally careful conveyance, the same ideas from our respective traditions can resonate anew in broader society. But like my rabbinic predecessors in other times of technological and social flux, I can only relate my narrative effectively with the help of those leading the changes we see taking place.
This article was originally published by the Interfaith Youth Core.
Follow Rabbi Joshua Stanton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JoshuaMZStanton