I am sitting in my nephew’s bar-mitzvah when my brother Kenny leans in and asks why the Rabbi has his tallis *(tälis| a fringed shawl traditionally worn by Jewish men at prayer) over his head. I replied, “Well, when the Rabbi comes out of the tallis, he sees his shadow and there are four more hours of the service.”


Kenny does not believe in a God. He thinks once you’re dead, that’s it. And while I do believe there is a higher spiritual plane than the physical one we are in, and I believe our soul or energy is a part of that universally, I understand Kenny’s reasoning.


I was raised conservative, I was on the regional and national boards of United Synagogue Youth and I went to Hymies Deli every Sunday. While I care very much for my heritage and I connect to my culture as a Jewish man, I have traveled to over 40 countries, befriended countless ages and cultures and I believe it has given me a slightly broader view.


When I was in Kadima *(ka deem ah| Educational / Social group for young Jewish children), we took a trip up to Borough Park, the Hassidic neighborhood in Brooklyn where we stayed at host’s homes. After coming home from the evening activity, I walked into the bedroom and instinctively flicked on the light switch. Realizing it was Shabbat and turning on a light was a no-no, my two roommate’s eyes widened. Their panicked whispers to turn it off threw me into a moral quandary between getting caught by our host who was walking down the hall towards us, and being honest in taking responsibility for my error. Needless to say, our host was annoyed. We had to sleep with the light on all night. Lots of light, little sleep.


In years to come I learned that the Hassidic and Orthodox people hire non-Jews to turn on appliances for them. Some even hire a man who specializes in making contraptions to do the work for them during the Sabbath. Are they the chosen ones? I mean if God wants you to sit in the dark, you sit in the damn dark! Am I right people?


The Reformed Jews who only go to High Holiday services or maybe tell a Jewish joke or shout out “Oy!” once in a while. (I should mention that my rabbi growing up said there are no bad or good Jews. And contrary to many people’s egotistical, poor behavior, I agree.)


The Conservative Jews allow women to daven and wear kipot but don’t allow them to be Rabbi’s and they don’t recognize the gays.


The Reconstructionist Jews who have altered and interpreted the allowances and teachings to suit the 21st century person.


 The synagogue I went to once in Hollywood had a Rabbi that was a girl in her 20’s acting like Yechiel Eckstein and the cantor who looked like a cross between Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and was accompanied by a baby grand piano! When did the Bible have a score written to it?  Ridiculous.


Do any of these examples sound like The Chosen Ones?


All of these things are loopholes that are man made and used to get people connected in whatever way possible to their heritage with vigor and pride.


But the question haunts me … what was once a voice for unified strength in ones history & belief without persecution, may be the type of thing that creates the furthering riff in society and mankind. Not Jews and Gentiles, but all mankind.


The Buddhists believe in self-accountability for where we are in life and where we are going. Their prayers address the individuals in all of humanity. The Jewish books refer to “the chosen people” and “your fellow Jews” and prayers for “our people and the land of Israel.” There is something a tad segregating about that. I mean, what about the rest of the people we have to walk around the planet with?


Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein said, “As society changes and grows, so does religion”.  So if man is manipulating religious study to suit his needs anyway, why not do it in a manner that supports equality, bridging the gap. The Chosen People should be leaders. Not just of Jewish people but of humanity. We are not alone.

 (*) Definitions

 – Michael Paul Ziegfeld


PS: If anyone wants to curse me or shake a finger, I am a Kohan *(kōhān| a member of the priestly class, having certain rights and duties in the synagogue) ˈ and thereby, in the clear. Suck on that!