A confident, tall, yet boyish 11th grade teenager asked this question of Rabbis who were participating in a panel called “Ask the Rabbi Anything”.
The teen who asked the question wasn’t just any boy–he is already different from most other Jewish teens his age.
He’s attending a supplementary school program one day a week and working as a Hebrew school teacher’s aide a second day.
His plan is to earn a Teaching Certificate at the end of a two-year program.
Yet, he had a concern about whether or not the community considered him Jewish simply because he has doubts about God.
The good news?
He received warm and thoughtful responses by all Rabbis that I’m sure allayed any concerns he had, plus gave him plenty of things to grapple with and think about.
There were about 45 other teens in the room that seemed really interested in hearing the answers….so we can assume that the question resonated with them as well.
So, what can we learn about from this very important and urgent question?
We need to create the space for teens to share their feelings of doubt.
How well have we taught our teens that asking questions is the beginning of a journey?
How many of the teens we work with feel discomfort about faith? God? The bible?
How many teens might turn away from Judaism believing that they don’t quite measure up to some arbitrary definition of what a Jew is?
Judging from the thoughtful questions the teens asked and the depth of their comments, it was apparent that they experienced a wide open and accepting space to begin to figure things out, and for me–I was happy to share that space with them.