Keeping traditions alive in a modern world

The first morning of our amazing trip (you had to be there!), we visited Anu – Museum of the Jewish People. The core exhibit is designed to reflect the multiculturalism of Jewish diversity today. The museum creators say “from hipster to haredi, every Jew can find themselves there.”
I see billboard-sized pictures of different families – the Tel Aviv family with a dog, the religious-looking family, people of different ages and locations. Life-sized screens of different Jews telling their story. Different Jewish groups (Sephardic, Hasidic, etc.) and political parties are displayed.
I could not find myself.
I knew why. Most of those shown could be placed in two opposite categories – either traditional people living in the past or the modern individual in today’s world.
From a very young age, I was taught and brought up with the Chabad dictum that the ultimate way to live as a Jew is to live in the present materialistic world and infuse it with the holy and spiritual. Not only is it not a contradiction, it is G-d’s mission for us.
I joined the trip in part because I knew there would be questions. Many living in the mundane world (Oregon is known as the least religious state) may find it difficult to connect with a holy and spiritual place. I felt the Chabad philosophy I have studied my entire life could help it feel less foreign.
And boy did it. I have never been asked so many questions in my life. From a weeklong discussion on “Does Judaism believe in the afterlife?” to the most often asked “Which Chasidic group wears which hat and why?” (spoiler alert: I don’t know), we all appreciated the conversations.
Many were private. Here are some that weren’t:
Is it true you have nine kids? Why?
Is it religious to believe in Zionism?
Why don’t you shave your beard?
Why do we don teffilin?
How did they come up with the times for Shabbat and holidays?
All these questions have short answers, but Judaism is much more than the rules and steps. Every detail in Jewish life is infused with rich meaning and depth.
The last exhibit in the Anu museum displays six examples of modern Jewish migrations, including from the shtetl to the big city, from Europe to America. I think perhaps those challenging transformations aren’t only historic – we live them every day. We get pulled back and forth between old world and the new. But the ultimate is to live the pure traditions in our progressive world. In 2023, we must be bringing heaven down to Earth.
It was special to have these farbrengens (Yiddish for meaningful gathering) on the buses, in the restaurants, hotel lobbies and on the hikes. It came alive viewing an ancient land with cranes and archeological digs coexisting; even government decisions were debated while we were there.
Keep digging deeper, there is so much more. It’s all right here in our daily lives. If you would like to continue the farbrengen, email me at RabbiM@ChabadOregon or stop by the Jewish Oasis.

To see more photos and read reflections from about a dozen participants visit

To read more photos and  reflections from about a dozen participants visit

To read more photos and  reflections from about a dozen participants visit


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