Rabbi Helen Cohn
Streams and Rivers
Judaism has a variety of forms and expressions in this country, from Ultra Orthodox to Humanistic Judaism. Sometimes they are called “branches” of Judaism, but I’ve always been partial to the term “streams.”
I have a new insight into that term and why I find it appealing. This past weekend I’ve been thinking of a sight from my childhood in St Louis: the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Each river has its own distinct color, and I imagine each has other qualities that makes it unique. Nevertheless, they become one river.
I won’t push the metaphor too far, but I think of the different streams of Judaism when I picture these rivers flowing along together. Different, but connected. When seen from outer space, the differences are not visible. One river.
And so it is with the Jewish people. Each stream has opinions and value judgments about the other streams. For being one extended family, we sure can be cranky with one another. But I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that we all have the same goal: to experience and express ourselves as Jews in all the ways that we find meaningful, without being judgmental about how other Jews strive to do precisely the same thing. One complex, enduring river.