Saturday, October 4, 2008

Judaism 2.0

Occasionally I take a little stroll through my traffic logs to find out what brings my rag-tag, fugitive readership to Axinar's, and occasionally there seems to be an uptick in traffic related to people looking for information about Congregation Beth Adam.

Of late, specifically a few folks seem to be looking for such things as "Beth Adam streaming", so I presume they are looking for Rabbi Robert Barr's famous podcasts.

Actually, I got to thinking about it - it is probably only because Bob Barr has more than your average rabbi's interest in technology that he even caught my attention.

I think it was something like 1995 - he was giving a talk to the local Libertarian educational group and I remember part of the talk went something like, "Are you familiar with the Internet? You better get familiar with it. Certainly the enemies of freedom are familiar with it," and then he proceeded to pass around what I remember to be a stack of 50-some pages of print-outs of neo-Nazi sites.

For those of you who for whatever reason might never have the opportunity to hear Rabbi Barr speak, he has been doing podcasts for quite some time that are usually quite fascinating.

Bob Barr and Beth Adam are no strangers to controversy. Beth Adam is a Jewish congregation that doesn't mention God specifically in its liturgy.

Now, I once had a conversation with an überfrum Jew at Mensa who said to me, "Why of course, this is a very Jewish thing to do." He explained that if there is a concept that the "YHVH" that appears in the Bible as a name of God is never to be uttered, and even "Adonai" ("The Lord") is not to be said except in serious prayer (substituted with "Adoshem"), and "Elohim" is never to be said except in serious prayer (substituted with "Elokim"), then perhaps there is a perfectly valid point to be made here that referring to God AT ALL (even with "HaShem" - "The Name"), itself is hopelessly blasphemous and perhaps ONLY Beth Adam shows the proper respect to God.

Now, I don't think that's the the thought process that led Beth Adam to omit any overt references to God from its liturgy. Agnosticism and Atheism are very important aspects of Judaism - a thought that blows away a great many people with a Christian background and is too lengthy even for me to get into right at this moment.

While going over the various search links, I discovered that the controversy involving Beth Adam even made it all the way to the New York Times.

You see, somewhere along the way Beth Adam decided they wanted to join the UAHC - the "Union of American Hebrew Congregations", the national organization for Jewish congregations affiliated with the "Reform" movement.

There's actually a fair amount that has been written about Beth Adam's rejection from the UAHC, but probably the most coherent description I've heard came from a local Reform Temple-goer who said to me something to the effect, "Yes, we sat down and decided that Beth Adam was most definitely JEWISH, but it was not REFORM Jewish."

Beth Adam has continued to survive and prosper, constructing its own building in Loveland, and continuing to have a healthy, productive relationship with the Reform movement - hiring interns from Hebrew Union College and participating in other functions associated with the Reform movement.

However, since Mrs. Axinar's mother doesn't approve of the Unitarian Church's lack of a specific theology, I'm assuming she would be UTTERLY disappointed in Beth Adam, so I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to drag Mrs. Axinar over there or not.

Oh, speaking of the Unitarian Church and Bob Barr's penchant for controversy - check this one out - he gave the Chrismas Eve sermon at the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati (mp3) last year (December 24, 2007).

Yes, in the world of Liberal Theology, strange, strange things can happen ...

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At December 15, 2008 at 11:24 PM, Blogger Laura said...

Actually, I think people were searching "Beth Adam streaming" not just because they were looking for Rabbi Barr's podcasts which are available on itunes and at - but because they were interested in seeing holiday services videostreamed live from Beth Adam's new online congregation is a full service progressive Jewish congregation on your computer! I'm the "other" (read younger) rabbi at Beth Adam - and we launched the online congregation in September of 2008. Check it out - people from around the world already have!


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