The prevalence of “cafeteria Judaism” is part of what frustrates so many Jewish professionals in their search for how to promote a greater interest in Judaism among their constituencies.
In my conversations with Jews from a variety of backgrounds and levels of education, I began to notice a shift in understanding when I replaced the off-putting language of “Jewish law” with the more comfortable and familiar language of “Jewish tradition.” The language of “law” suggests ironclad rules and consequences for disobedience that are foreign to all but the most observant Jews. But “tradition” connotes positive associations and the desire for transmission.
Those Jews who are proud to be Jewish and who desire to transmit this pride and sense of peoplehood to their children and grandchildren need to consider their obligation to the Jewish tradition, even if they do not feel bound to observe the law in the same way as the most traditionally observant Jews. This concept of having an obligation to preserve the tradition can also help Jewish educators instill a sense of accountability to maintain the fundamentals of the tradition that have shaped and molded the Jewish people throughout millennia.
Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, “Shabbat Comes to ‘Real Housewives of New York’”, Jewish Journal (29 April – 5 May 2016), 14-15.