I know (or knew) very little about Jews and Judaism before my visit. There has even been an argument whether Jews are a religion or a race, whether they are all part of a nation, Israel, or whether their loyalties and allegiances belong to the country of which they are citizens.
In the 1980s, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Jews are a race, at least for purposes of certain anti-discrimination laws. Their reasoning: at the time these laws were passed, people routinely spoke of the 'Jewish race' or the 'Italian race' as well as the 'Negro race', so that is what the legislators intended to protect. But many Jews were deeply offended by that decision, offended by any hint that Jews could be considered a race. The idea of Jews as a race brings to mind nightmarish visions of Nazi Germany. But setting aside the emotional issues, Jews are clearly not a race (Rich 2002 2).
With this brief background, I prepared to spend Saturday morning, the Jewish Sabbath, at Temple Isaiah, a Reform congregation on West Pico Blvd. in West LA. It is important to note that this is a Reform Congregation, which means that much of the prayers and responses are in English rather than in Hebrew. In doing some research, I learned that there are basically three separate and distinct "types" of Jewish congregations: the Reform, who are basically liberal in both politics and theology. The Conservative, who adhere to mostly Biblical traditions, and the Orthodox, who are the most devout and observant, and who abide by ancient rules (such as growing beards, and separating men and women during services).
And yet, liberal as Reform Judaism tends to be, their basic principles, as adopted by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, are concerned with justice and a respect for God. For example, "We continue to have faith that, in spite of the unspeakable evils committed against our people and the sufferings endured by others, the partnersh...