Being Masorti Today

  1. Our values

- Tradition and transmission

The Torah is the narrative of God’s revelation to our people. It is Judaism’s most sacred text, a collection of commandments as well as the source of all interpretations regarding the ways of living and thinking indicated by God. Closely linked to the oral traditions of the Halakha, which has constituted Judaism along ages and still does, the Torah is in itself the product of a long history, attested by archaeological, linguistic, legal and literary evidence. We therefore view the Torah as the sacred depositary of God’s will and intervention, as interpreted by our people over the course of history. This evolutionary vision of Judaism also applies to Halakha, which has defined the parameters of Jewish life for centuries, basing itself on rabbinical decisions compiled in the Talmud and the Mishnah, and enriched by the responsa called forth by modernity. We believe that the historicity of the texts does not detract from their sacred character, and we endeavor to make the law evolve according to Halakha and not against it, thus submitting the letter to the spirit. Conversing with the texts is for us a privileged way to value tradition (massoret). In the real world, this dialogue also leads to education, which is particularly important regarding the transmission of our values – to children via the Modern Jewish School (EJM) in Paris, and to adults via courses, lectures and seminars.

 

- Torah, cult, charity

We seek to give life to the words of Shimon the Righteous (one of the last members of the Great Assembly), according to whom the world stands on three pillars: Torah, cult (avodah) and charity (gemilut hasadim).

The Torah guides us towards wisdom. According to the Talmud, its study itself is as important as all the others commandments together.

By regularly attending services, we assert the importance of spirituality in our lives, and express it through traditional liturgy (the texts and melodies of prayers). Our services are mainly conducted in Hebrew, but all the texts also exist in French in our prayer books, and the main songs are transliterated, in order to allow non-Hebrew speaking people to participate. Men and women pray together and women have the same responsibilities as men.

We view gemilut hasadim as an ethic of sharing and tzedakah (material charity towards the poor), and we remember that the latter also expresses justice (tzedek).

 

- Humanism and freedom of consciousness

Our movement is pluralistic. We think and act in a humanistic spirit, facilitating dialog among cultures and religions in all undertakings (education, study, religious services, spirituality and leisure). This reflects an attitude of cooperation and respect, which is not always obvious and should be constantly encouraged.

Our way of interpreting the texts (Torah, Talmud, prayers, etc.) is both in-depth and innovative: it is inspired by academic methods and we approach it with a critical mind, which is both an essential part of thinking and the condition for interpretative renewal (hidouch).

 

  1. Our goals

- Solidarity and engagement

In our relations with other communities, religions, political and social movements, we seek to express our solidarity with other movements in Judaism, as well as our engagement as citizens.

How do we show this solidarity? First, by avoiding isolation ourselves, including within the Masorti movement, and by welcoming others in a spirit of generosity (the model of Abraham’s tent). Then by remembering the words of the Mishnah: “These and those are the words of the living God” and that “all Jews are responsible for one another”. Finally, by working for the benefit of the whole of the Jewish people (klal Israel), through projects of general interest, and by fighting anti-Semitism.

As citizens, we seek dialogue and togetherness with non-Jews, including fighting against all forms of racism and exclusion.

- Coherence and excellence

In our own community, we aim at leading our lives and performing our religious practice according to the same vision of existence, and we strive towards excellence in culture, education and spirituality.

- Support of Israel

In our relationship to Israel, we assert that the land and state of Israel are central to contemporary Jewish life, we support the Zionist movement in a non-political way and we promote Israeli culture.

 

3. Our development

- Obstacles

The position of the Masorti movement, in between the Orthodox and the Liberal or Reform movements, often results in its being perceived – by others and sometimes by its own members – as ambivalent, turning itself sometimes towards modernism, and at other times towards tradition. This positioning, which may appear at first sight uncomfortable, is precisely the richness of the Masorti movement, which progressively unravels to those who approach it.

- Favorable Considerations

Several considerations may lead Jews to turn towards the Masorti movement. Some will do so, reacting either to assimilation (which they think of as threatening their Jewish identity), or to ultra-orthodox radicalism (whose austerity does not respond to their values).

- Projects

In order to grow further, we should embody a Judaism that stimulates the desire to taste it, be it through its great projects, its strength of conviction in public debate or its spirituality. We seek to show that “Judaism is more than a religion. It is also a civilization, a culture and language. That religion is more than about ritual or dogma. It is also about discussion, emotion, brotherly sharing.” (Rivon Krygier).