The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Jews
What behaviors do "highly effective Jews" employ? And what the heck is a "highly effective Jew" anyway?
Despite our impeccably rich history and peoplehood, many Jews across the world still find themselves struggling with their Judaism and their Jewishness. This struggle becomes all the more convoluted when it is juxtaposed against “outside” (i.e. non-Jewish) cultures, societies, expectations, and desires.
I know this because, until recently, I used to be one of these Jews.
In earlier times, Judaism’s foundation rested upon a moral code, philosophy, mindset, lifestyle, and education. But starting around the 1700s or 1800s, religion became the predominant perception of and association with Judaism, consequently creating the Jewish denominations we know today: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Deconstructionist, et cetera.
As a result, Judaism has become a smorgasbord — putting today’s Jews on increasingly shaky ground with each other, and with their own Judaism and Jewishness.
So much so that many of us are beginning to vehemently disagree about what the heck Judaism is, why it matters, what it stands for, to which areas we should allocate more resources, who is and isn’t a Jew, and how vastly we should contract or expand our so-called tent.
The Jewish Continuum
Spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically, most of us go through a sequence called the “Maturity Continuum” — a term coined by international bestselling author Stephen Covey. This sequence starts with dependence (relying on others), transitions to independence (relying on yourself), and concludes with interdependence (working with others).
“We live in an interdependent reality,” according to Covey. “Interdependence is essential for good leaders; good team players; a successful marriage or family life; in organizations. Interdependence is the attitude of ‘we’: we can co-operate; we can be a team; we can combine our talents.”
I believe many of us Jews also go through a similar sequence — what I call the Jewish Continuum — defined by absorption, rebellion, and balance (in this order).
It starts with absorption, or the Judaism and Jewishness we were initially taught and exposed to. In this stage, we rely on others to show us “the Jewish way” — really, their Jewish way — and we depend on other people’s versions of thinking, feeling, doing, and being Jewish. These people demonstrate Judaism and Jewishness through their own learnings, as well as from their life experiences, which in many cases are different from ours. Often, this means that we cannot truly understand or appreciate their Judaism and Jewishness like they do.
For example, among Jews who were around immediately after the Holocaust, their Judaism and Jewishness is likely to be a fierce reflection of these unfathomable events. But when these Jews imparted their Judaism and Jewishness to, say, their children, sometimes there was a proverbial leak in the ceiling — because their children are a generation removed from the Holocaust.
This might not seem like plenty of time, but with the pace of change in today’s world (i.e. technology, globalization), being generationally removed from something is substantial. As a result, these children might struggle to connect to Judaism and Jewishness as deeply and profoundly as their parents, presuming they were offered Judaism through the Holocaust prism.
We also see this generational disconnect among Diaspora Jews’ relationship with the State of Israel. For Jews who remember a time when you could wake up on any given day to news that Israel has been wiped out, overthrown, or conquered, the Jewish state was (and still is) an epic part of their Jewish identity.
But some of today’s Jews, especially younger ones — who only know Israel as a strong, independent state with a powerful army, mighty hi-tech ecosystem, and occupation on its hands — their relationship with Israel, and Israel’s relationship with their Jewishness, are not nearly as epic.
This brings us to the second stage of the Jewish Continuum: rebellion.