Jews and Values

Marlene Adler Marks is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

Don't be surprised if some of today's high holiday sermons sound as if William Bennett was the guest speaker. Like Americans everywhere, the search for personal values and meaning among Jews has reached a frantic level, and for many of the same reasons: divorce, corruption, addictions, an educational system that is short-changing our children.

At Rosh Hashanah services 10 days ago, some rabbis asked congregants to use the ensuing Days of Awe, which end tonight at sundown, to compile their own Top 10 ideals to live by, quoting Bennett's "The Book of Virtues" as a means of exploring questions of commitment, family and whether money and work are placed above the things that really matter.

The rare sermon still attentive to the political fray may make mention of the religious right, but more as a challenge than a threat. Jews are stunned by the rise of the Christian Coalition and alarmed by Pat Robertson's exclusionary vision. But they seem to fear more their own irrelevance to the values debate. How can we combat Robertson when so many Jews are unfamiliar with the Bible--now so liberally quoted by the political right--and uncomfortable with any public mention of God?

If Robertson & Co. are wrong, and this is more than just a Christian nation, what is the Judeo part of the Judeo-Christian ethic? Yom Kippur may be a day of fasting, but there's enough food for thought.

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