To say that the Covid-19 pandemic has radically transformed our lives has become commonplace: we work from home, we avoid social contact and masks have become an essential accessory, such as purses and shoes. In synagogue practices, it has been no different… who could have imagined, in January, that so many Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur services would have been online? Who would have dreamed of a Shavuot Tikkun that would bring together nine rabbis from Reform communities in Brazil and dozens of speakers? Not to mention the countless cultural activities that we have been developing…. It is no overstatement to say that we have reinvented ourselves during the pandemic!
At the beginning of the quarantine, we from Congregação Israelita Paulista, were challenged with the question: “are we ready for the Judaism of the future?” While we were looking for that answer, we realized that we had been successfully developing activities that dealt with the reality we were living in, be it in the Brazilian context or through its Jewish perspectives. We were not, however, dealing with long-term Jewish issues or investigating whether there is actually a future for Judaism.
We, then, started Project 5.8, whose motto is “to discuss the Judaism of the future and the future of Judaism.” The initiative aims to affect the way we educate, pray, celebrate in community, and help strengthen CIP as a reference for a Jewish life that is simultaneously committed to tradition and modernity, accessible and intellectually profound.
Together, Laura Trachtenberg-Houser and I are the hosts of Podcast 5.8, the first fruit of this project. Every other week, we receive guests who help us explore Jewish issues for the long term. In the first episodes, we talked to people with different backgrounds to help us understand what it means to be a Jew in Brazil in 2020. From these conversations, we draw five conclusions: (1) the experience of Jewish identity is subjective and we are all looking for spaces from which we can became a part of, (2) Judaism must not be hidden in the closet, (3) the Jewish experience cannot be dissociated from our lives in the broader world, (4) we are also the result of other identity dimensions that define our life stories, (5) Judaism is constantly changing and our view of it needs to evolve as well. We are currently investigating with our guests how to strengthen the bridges between Judaism and other fields, such as science, human rights, politics and the arts.
Recently, we also launched a Facebook group so that more people can participate in these conversations! You are invited: listen to the podcast and come and chat with us in the group!
Rogério Cukierman is a rabbi at Congregação Israelita Paulista. Graduated from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, he has focused his rabbinical career in pluralist Jewish education projects, committed to the transformation of the world through Judaism.