Back in Hong Kong and Nice to meet you Rabbi Gilad Kariv!

Hi friends of my little humble blog!

I’m officially back in Hong Kong now. It has been raining non-stop but I am not complaining since it helps keep the temperature moderate and humidity checked. I had a wonderful trip back to the States. I visited San Francisco (my former home) and Dallas (my family’s home).  I was able to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones.

In San Francisco I visited Temple Emanu-el twice. First time was on a Sunday after Shabbat where I was able to take lots of photos of the Temple from the outside.  Second time was for a special Shabbat service honoring the Temple’s Chief Rabbi.  I was able to view the inside of the Temple.  It is a beautiful structure through and through.  With extremely high ceilings and ornate stained-glass windows, I felt transported into an ancient Jewish world.  I have uploaded some pics for you all via my Flickr. Enjoy! ;)

So I am back in Hong Kong now.  Recovered from my awful experience flying back transpacific.  My flight was delayed and upon missing my connection to Hong Kong, I was diverted to spend a night in Osaka, Japan.  United Airlines (A favorite) selected to put us into a low-level motel and I could not sleep at all. It was horrible. Anyways, I am all better now in Hong Kong.

The United Jewish Congregation in Hong Kong often hosts guest speakers and this week was not an exception.  Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israeli Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism visited Hong Kong and gave a breakfast talk on Reform Judaism and Israeli Politics. He was about mid to late thirties, handsome, with a quiet intelligence.  As in typical Israeli style, he was direct and forthcoming in communication style (I love this style BTW). I told him that I was currently researching various Jewish sects for a future conversion, he quickly provided his recommendation for Reform. :) He offered his card and if I am in Israel in the future to visit his congregation for Shabbat. I will definitely take him up on his offer when I am in Israel.

Until next time my dear followers! :)

Rabbi Gilad Kariv giving a talk in Hong Kong

Rabbi Gilad Kariv giving a talk in Hong Kong

Let Us Not Forget: The Reconstructionists!

Hello from Dallas Texas! My childhood home state in the US of A.

My summer trip back to my adopted homeland is almost over.  I shall be returning to Hong Kong soon.

I almost forgot about the Reconstructionist Movement within Judaism.  Barely heard about this sect so research took me a bit longer.

What exactly is Reconstructionist Judaism?

According to Wikipedia, Reconstructionist Judaism started within the Conservative Judaism movement.  It is a fairly recent movement, started by Mordecai Kaplan, a former Modern Orthodox Rabbi.  The Jewish Reconstructionist Movement defines it as “…a progressive, contemporary approach to Jewish life which integrates a deep respect for traditional Judaism with the insights and ideas of contemporary social, intellectual and spiritual life.” It is the smallest mainstream  Jewish sect with just over 100 congregations worldwide.

How will being Reconstructionist Jewish Change me?

  1. Diet Changes – This one will parallel Conservative I believe, not as strict as Modern Orthodox.
  2. Schedule Changes – “where Reform Judaism emphasizes individual autonomy, Reconstructionism emphasizes the importance of religious community in shaping individual patterns of observance. Belonging to a community leads us to take the patterns of observance within that community seriously; our choices do not exist independently, but are made in response to our community as part of our participating in it.”
  3. Belief Changes – This, as is with Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform I will believe in the G-d of Israel.
  4. Life Changes – I think the biggest challenge of being Reconstructionist Jewish would be finding an appropriate congregation at home and when I travel abroad.  For example, Hong Kong only has Modern Orthodox and Reform because they are the most popular.

I close with a Jewish book that I plan to read on the flight back to Hong Kong from San Francisco. Have you heard of this before?

Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin's To Be a Jew

Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin’s To Be a Jew

Until next time! xoxo

Reform Jewish: Because that’s what most American Jews are

Hi Guys! I just returned from a wonderful trip to Japan.  I saw lots of Tokyo, some of Kyoto, and bits and pieces of Nara and Osaka. It was just lovely and I can’t wait to return. Tokyo is also home to the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Center of Japan.

This week, I will profile the other main sect of Judaism called Reform.

What exactly is Reform Judaism?

Just as its name suggests, Reform or Progressive Judaism reforms traditional orthodox Judaism. According to the Union for Reform Judaism, some key beliefs are:

  1. “Judaism frozen in time is an heirloom, not a living fountain” – Reformists welcome innovation into Judaism from outside cultures and influences.
  2. Reform Jews are committed to the principles of inclusion, not exclusion. Reform Jews reaches out to Jews-by-Choice and interfaith families
  3. Reform Jews are committed to the absolute equality of women in all areas of Jewish life.

How will being Reform Jewish Change me?

  1. Diet Changes – Most if not all Reform Jews do not believe in keeping kosher.  Their rationale ranges from corruption of the kosher industry, the kosher industry not accepting the reform sect of Judaism, and the boring old it is an out-of-date tradition.
  2. Schedule Changes – Most of the Jews I know are reform and they definitely do NOT attend Shabbat services every week. What I do see are Jewish young professionals attending Shabbat once in a while, if there is a cool speaker of some sort.
  3. Belief Changes – This, as is with Orthodox and Conservative, I will believe in the G-d of Israel.
  4. Life Changes – With reform, I will have more flexibility. Downside is that I won’t be recognized by the country of Israel.  Israel only recognizes Orthodox Jews, so what chances do I have if I want credibility and legitimacy as a Jew-by-Choice?

Again, much of this analysis is personal preferences.  I am in San Francisco this week and next.  Looking forward to visiting various Synagogues and Interfaith Organizations over my short visit.

See you next time!

xoxo

Me Conservative? Just Maybe! (Judaism that is…)

What exactly is Conservative Judaism?

In a nutshell, Conservative Judaism was founded in order to “conserve” Jewish traditions.  An American Jewish movement known outside the USA as Masorti, they were not in the business to reform Judaism like the progressives but not as strict as the Orthodox.  Conservative, the peace-keeping middle child of the Jewish movement family, boasts a strong 35% of the total American Jewish population.  It strives to balance modernity with traditional observance. Conservative Jews are not as strict in regards to Kashrut, or keeping kosher as Orthodox Jews. (yay maybe?!!) :-)

 

How will being Conservative Jewish Change me?

  1. Diet Changes – As a Conservative Jew, I would try to keep kosher but my observance would not be as strict.  So that means, I will still go out once in a while and eat to my heart’s content? (I hope Rabbis are not reading this…..)
  2. Schedule Changes – Similar to Orthodox, I may go to services but not as strict around schedule.  I will deter from using technology during Shabbat of course and have kosher meals during this downtime.  I will also be observing Jewish holidays.  There are too many of them to count!!
  3. Belief Changes – This is an obvious one.  I am agnostic for now, I believe in a higher being that unites all the universe-which the Jews refer to as G-d.  (Same as Orthodox, but Conservative Jews are open to integrate outside influences into Judaism and they allow scientific questioning of the religion)
  4. Life Changes – When I am officially Jewish, I will be one with the Jewish people.  Their suffering will be on me too. Their discrimination I will feel too. As a friend of mine said, I will be throwing my lot in with the Jews.  I wonder if I will still get to be Chinese? Would I have to drown out one of my identity for the other? I hope not! I love celebrating diversity of the human experience!

This movement sounds like a good fit for me so far.

xoxo

How Will I Change? The Orthodox Way of Modern Judaism

What exactly is Orthodox Judaism?

In one sentence, Orthodox Judaism keeps to its roots.  Men and women worship and sit separately in Synagogue.  The language used is Hebrew and traditional observances prescribed by the Torah.  Orthodox Jews believe G-d gave Moses all of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  10% of American Jews identified themselves as Orthodox in a 2000 National Jewish Population Survey.  One must keep Kosher, meaning, my lifestyle will change dramatically (!!!) The Jewish Bible considers the consumption of food and drink as one of life’s great joys.  As such, one must respect and take care of how food is prepared and served.  Over the centuries Rabbinic Judaism, the rabbis of the time, laid out elaborate rules for how to slaughter animals. Sounds really specific and bloody to me!

How will being Orthodox Jewish Change me?

  1. Diet Changes – If I become Orthodox Jewish, I will have to observe and keep to these dietary laws. Can I do it?  I like to eat too much…. Must consider this a bit more and deeply. >_< On the other hand, I have had kosher food at Chabad and Ohel Leah, it tastes well if prepared and cooked well.  There is also an upside to this change!
  2. Schedule Changes – I guess I won’t be going out Friday nights anymore. As least not during Shabbat.  I will be at Synagogue and attending services and eating kosher dinner.  This will extend through Saturday early evening as well. Well, its only one weekend night. I still have my Saturday nights.  I will have to pray on a schedule too I believe.
  3. Belief Changes – This is an obvious one.  I am agnostic for now, I believe in a higher being that unites all the universe-which the Jews refer to as G-d.
  4. Life Changes – If I am an Orthodox Jew, I can only marry an Orthodox Jew right? I haven’t given this too much thought yet….(?) I’m not particularly attracted to the long-bearded ultra-orthodox type of Jewish men. They kind of remind of me of Mormons. (no offense to neither groups!)

I’m sure there are some things that I’m missing but I got to finish my Literature Review for my class so I can graduate.

Information Sources:

http://www.ijs.org.au/Variants-within-Judaism/default.aspx

http://www.jewfaq.org/movement.htm

http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=43744

 

Help! Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform? (Reconstructionist)

Dear friends,

Thank you for reading!

This is an open letter to ask for some feedback.

Its been almost two years since my journey into Judaism.  I have experienced almost all the major movements in Judaism. Modern Orthodox at Ohel Leah Hong Kong, Reform/Progressive at United Congregation of Hong Kong, and Chabad at Shanghai.  Have not experienced the Conservative sect but heard it is somewhere in between Orthodox and Reform. If anyone knows of a Conservative Temple in Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York City, and/or Dallas – do pass the word.

Am asking because am at a point of deciding which one works for me and sticking to it for the long-term. At this point in time, I feel that Modern Orthodox is the best fit for me, I feel more connected to Ohel Leah in Hong Kong.

Would like to get some feedback on which sect your are with, why you choose it, and any suggestions. I’ll write more about how I feel about each and make a final decision by mid-summer.

I’m open to all types so don’t feel shy if you are not Modern Orthodox. Any feedback is welcomed.

Talk soon!

xoxo

Limmud was awesome and so was Mr. Clive Lawton.

Tonight was my first official Limmud.  For those who don’t know, Limmud is a British-Jewish Charity organization whose mission is “Wherever you find yourself, Limmud will take you one step further along your Jewish journey.” Founded in the United Kingdom by the amazing Mr. Clive Lawton (awesome live speaker BTW), Limmud was a mode or method of learning for Jews in the UK.  Now some thirty years later, Limmud has grown into an international organization organizing Jewish learning events around the globe.  As a matter of fact, Limmud will have a Shanghai event in early April. (I will be going for sure!)

How Limmud relates to my own story? Well, we should be a big happy family! I’m still in the beginnings of my Jewish journey, I look to Limmud to provide additional resources and assistance in moving along in this journey.  In all my touch points with Jewish culture, there is much to learn and not a Pope in sight (explain the Pope thing later).  Mr. Clive Lawton, one of the original founders of Limmud gave two interesting talks at the Hong Kong event.  One is “Weird Tales from the Talmud” and the other “Are there prophets anymore”.  Afterwards, I hurriedly grabbed Clive to chat about his organization Limmud.  He is such a jovial, fun, and an engaging speaker and totally in the know about every aspect of Jewish people and its history.  He gave me some history of the organization and the reasons behind its humble beginnings.  Clive mentioned in the “Weird Tales from the Talmud” talk that Jews, unlike Christians, do not like the idea of having a Pope-like figure.  That’s why I made my earlier comment about not a Pope in sight.

I wish I can write more but it’s almost midnight and I have group project meeting tomorrow morning for my Social Policy Research class.  I will blog more about Limmud next week as I prepare for my Limmud number 2 in Shanghai.

Hope everyone is well!

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