A Masorti rabbi's view of the consistorial elections
Last Sunday (26/11/2017) the elections took place within the Consistory of Paris (and the Paris region). Unsurprisingly, the list of the current system in place, "Osons le Judaisme" with Joël Mergui, won by a wide margin with 12 seats out of 13.
I know many people disappointed by these results. We would have liked a less sclerotic, less closed system, a greater victory for the opening lists. The number of voters is criticized: 3713 out of a potential of nearly 40.000… A vote quite close to an opaque organization and very little representative of the Jewish plurality.
First of all, if the registered people do not go to vote, I am not sure that it is the responsibility of the team of Joël Mergui. I'm also not sure that if we organized within our movement Masorti similar elections would be proportionately more successful. This simply shows that the vast majority of Jews in Ile-de-France (about 300 people) do not care at all about the consistorial institution of which they do not belong and do not want to belong. . This is my case for example. This also shows that the vast majority of Jews who contribute to the Consistory and therefore recognize themselves in this institution, are basically indifferent to its religious and political orientations. These elections are simply not of interest to all those contributors to the Consistory who pay their contribution as one pays an obol (I know, once again, a certain number of them). Finally, this shows that the system is well infiltrated by the Joël Mergui trend and will be for a long time to come (but we already knew that).
In view of these facts, I think that we are facing a non-event. These elections simply have no interest, they don't mobilize anyone and 90% of the Jews don't give a damn about this institution and its orientations, otherwise they would react.
I confess to having the same feeling. I expect absolutely nothing from Consistory. I don't need him in my daily life. including for the kosher which could very well work otherwise. I buy products stamped Beit Din de Paris, but I also buy other products under other supervision. I know that part of the money paid goes to Consistory, I don't mind, it's my small contribution to the survival of this old lady. For daily prayer, I sometimes go to a Minyan orthodox which is not consistorial and I give a little money to this little synagogue to keep it going. On Shabbat, I go to my synagogue Masorti which is not consistorial. Like the vast majority of Jews in France, I did not need the Consistory, nor for a circumcision and I will not need it, I hope for a burial because there are various alternatives. It is true that I got married under the aegis of a Grand rabbi consistorial (the late Max Warschawski), but he was a man at odds with what has become the consistory since, even if some Rabbis consistorials remain courageously in this line of the most estimable, but completely stifled within the Consistory current.
I educated my children in the Jewish school and the Consistory had nothing to do with it. But in view of the exorbitant price and the very low level of Jewish education provided, I withdrew them to put them in public school. Again, the Consistory had no role, but another institution that works badly: the Israelite Alliance and its school policy on which there would be much to complain about. The only school that would have suited me, but too far away and so far devoid of college or high school classes, is the Modern Jewish School which has nothing consistorial, since it was founded by us. (attached later to the Alliance, which leaves some hope for the rise of the other schools of this network in terms of Judaism).
It's been a long time since I read an interesting book written by a rabbi consistorial or any work emanating from this glorious institution (in the past there have been some good works and translations). The same is true for conferences.
And yet, I am an ultra involved Jew, “a professional Jew” who has very little time for anything other than Judaism…
All this to say that the Judaism that suits me takes place elsewhere than in Consistory and in no way depends on him.
I don't really care, as rabbi, to be recognized or not by the Consistory. The opinion of the Great Rabbi of France does not interest me much. The orientations of the consistorial synagogues concern the public who wants to frequent them. I am part of the vast majority who do not identify with it, or with great moderation.
I therefore think that these elections do not have much at stake. The system put in place by Joël Mergui will probably continue on its merry way for decades. I think that the harmful power of the current closure only has an influence on people who are willing to suffer it, the others only have to raise their heads to breathe.
I deeply believe in the plurality of Judaism and the positive effect of competition. I am a democrat, a supporter of a liberal and social economy, wary of single parties and sclerotic institutions... I don't see why the values that shape my political opinions in the city should not have an influence on my opinions within of Judaism. I am an open Jew, feminist, critical, pluralist… far from the Consistory therefore.
I am well aware that the Consistory officially represents the observant Jews of which I am. But in a secular France, this representation has only a very limited stake and the public authorities are not fooled by the consistorial system. So, there again, it leaves me a little indifferent that representatives elected by 1% of the Jews come to make up the numbers on the steps of the Elysée. “Sei gesundt”, as we say in Yiddish.
I do not live my Judaism in the gaze of public authorities, any more than I live it in the gaze of Rabbis ultra-orthodox who infiltrated the Consistory. “I live among my people” to use a biblical expression, but I do not live among an institution which today seems almost useless to me. Judaism has existed for 4000 years, the Consistory for 200 years. If it were effective, open to the current Jewish plurality and represented a place of reflection for the future of Judaism in France, I would immediately become an activist. I think it's simply a fairly small club of people in whom I hardly recognize myself: either fairly narrow-minded Jews, stuck in a narrow ritualism or in ready-made ideas about what tradition can or cannot be. Jewish; either institutional Jews, prisoners of their grandfather's synagogue, therefore turned towards the past, or trapped in the survival of an institution whose recognition is essential to them in order to feel Jewish. Personally, I am interested in a Judaism that looks to the future, a Judaism of reflection, challenges and spirituality. The bench of the bourgeois synagogue of my ancestors does not interest me. The card of a party which does not offer me anything as a deep thought, nor as ethical values, nor as an openness to the world, does not interest me either. The level of the basic Jewish community, obsessed with the length of the beard and the width of the hat, accepting soothing speeches from Rabbis badly formed, does not suit me.
I therefore have no reason to be moved by the sclerosis of the consistorial institution which, in my opinion, is the faithful reflection of a part of our community. The only thing I can do is provide alternatives for people who need them. What I do on a daily basis, and invite all those for whom Judaism remains a serious issue in their lives, whatever the setting, to do.
Source: © The Consistory, gloomy plain where nothing moves...