The recent Pew Jewish Population Study finds Chabad involvement is growing. Some 40% of American Jews have some involvement with Chabad, and the younger the demographic, the higher the number. Previously, the study organizers did not look at Chabad as a demographic, but this year it figures prominently in terms of its significant and growing impact on American Jewry.
It’s not surprising, given Chabad’s message of, "Judaism with a Smile,” a philosophy based on the concept of, “non-judgmental outreach.” And it's a winning formula: Authentic, time-honored Judaism, served up without the negativity of judgmentalism.
Just recently I received a text message from a local Jew, who is involved with our local Chabad, reacting to this study. He wrote: "Glad to see these trends reflected in the Pew report. Much like Australia, England, Russia and Israel, Jews want undiluted Judaism and want to feel welcomed."
One of my favorite anecdotes on the Chabad approach is the story of the poor water carrier whose mouth watered when he experienced a delicious aroma in the rich man's home coming from the kitchen. "It's cheese blintzes" he was told. "There's nothing quite like cheese blintzes."
He rushes home and asks his loving wife to prepare for him some of the coveted blintzes. The good woman looks at him bewildered. "Don't you know we're poor... we can't afford any of the ingredients." "Spare me the details" says he, "The ingredients aren’t what matter. Just make me a blintz," he pleaded. The good woman puts together some water and flour and serves him his beloved "blintzes". He takes one bite and spits it out: "I can't see what the rich people see in cheese blintzes!!" The moral: Judaism is rich and savory, as it contains many delicious ingredients: Shabbos, kosher, mezuzah, prayer, Mikvah, Torah study etc. In recent times, various Jewish groups have attempted to present to our youth a Judaism, "without the ingredients.” And then we wonder why they're totally uninterested.
Chabad strives to present each Jew with the full, "blintz," true authentic Judaism with all of its rich ingredients. If one isn't, "hungry," to be able to digest the full blintz, they're welcome to take a little bite: start with one Mitzvah at time. However, that one bite comes chock full of all of the richness and sweetness of the unchanged, timeless ingredients that make Judaism magical and eternal.
Wherever one lives or travels, they will always find a Chabad center that will welcome them, regardless of affiliation or background. Locally one can go to chabadnashville.com and find an array of Jewish learning opportunities for people of all ages.