Anyone in the rabbi business shouldn’t be surprised why Mark Zuckerberg might decide to pull away from Reform Judaism. Whether he did is a different story. Reform Judaism seems to miss a very important point in what it means to be Jewish, possibly the most important point, a point which Mark seems to understand much better.
It is not a derogatory statement to call Judaism a kitchen religion. Quite the opposite. This is what makes Judaism so viable. It makes Judaism accessible to everyone, and the congregation rabbi mostly irrelevant, except if you’re going to them with personal issues or lifecycle matters. The Reform movement doesn’t get this. Judaism can’t be lived by proxy. The rabbi can’t be Jewish for you. If he is, then what do you need to be Jewish for?
Zuckerberg gets this. He was a member of AEPi, a Jewish organization organized around social connectivity, not religion. This is where he derived his Jewish identity. When he graduated Hebrew High School, he graduated out of Reform Judaism. After all, how many of us would want to go back to high school? Ewwwwwwwwww. That didn’t mean he graduated being Jewish, just his concept of what being Jewish meant changed. Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe he understood the real Judaism is in the personal rituals, just his knowledge of them is deficient. You can’t learn Judaism in just two hours a week.
You don’t need a rabbi to be Jewish, per say. The rabbi is supposed to guide you on your own personal and communal path to Jewishness. This is my Judaism, and apparently Zuckerberg’s. Unfortunately, his Jewish conception didn’t include marrying Jewish. I blame the Reform rabbis for this.
I congratulate Zuckerberg for all his successes and for standing up for being Jewish. He has all the money in the world and could have eaten anywhere in Rome. He ate in the kosher place. That’s huge.