By contributing Author
In this age of modernity, observing one’s obligations within the Jewish faith – Orthodox, observant, or otherwise – can often pose quite the challenge.
Will you offer us a hand? Every gift, regardless of size, fuels our future.
Your critical contribution enables us to maintain our independence from shareholders or wealthy owners, allowing us to keep up reporting without bias. It means we can continue to make Jewish Business News available to everyone.
You can support us for as little as $1 via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From participating in the Shabbat, and taking part in the day of rest from dusk on Friday through sunset on Saturday, to remaining careful to consume only kosher foods, staying true to the traditions of the observant requires both patience and practice.
According to the landmark 2013 Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews, which conducted thousands of interviews to compile comprehensive societal data, one-quarter of the nearly 7 million Jews living in America consider religion to be a priority in their lives.
The Pew survey found that 70 percent of respondents participate in a Seder for Passover, while 53 percent fasted during Yom Kippur. The same study reported nearly one-quarter of the Jewish population regularly lighting Shabbat candles, and more than one-fifth restricting their diets to kosher meals while dining at home.
At one point or another your desire to enjoy certain hobbies or areas of interest will conflict with the requirements of your religious beliefs. But rather than simply abandon these activities altogether, the alternative is to seek out creative ways through which to combine your faith with your favorite interests.
Check out the list below for three effective methods you can use to include the traditions of your Jewish faith within a modern, active lifestyle.
Take Advantage of Technology
While the most Orthodox branches of Judaism may not agree, the rise of Reform synagogues and those who study liberal interpretations of the faith have little problem allowing adherents to use the internet and mobile technology during Shabbat, or days like Passover or Yom Kippur.
A phenomenon known as “half-Shabbos” has emerged of late, as children of even the strictest of observers have increasingly made allowances for cellphones, texting, and online activities.
After a story in The Jewish Week estimated that half of Orthodox Jewish children in the U.S. practice some form of half-Shabbos, Dr. Scott Goldberg and Dr. David Pelcovitz, professors at Yeshiva University’s Graduate School Azrieli, conducted a study which pegged the number at 17 percent.
Either way, the willingness to include certain levels of technological use during holiday observances can make it easier to reconcile religion with recreation.
Just ask Ari Engel, professional poker player and the son of an Orthodox rabbi. While maintaining his personal observance of Shabbat, Engel was forced to skip certain tournaments – sacrificing the chance to earn six-figure sums as a result.
By taking his game to top poker tournaments on the virtual felt, the Toronto-born resident of South Africa, Australia, and Jerusalem was able to avoid visiting casinos while still plying his trade as a poker pro. And although he still doesn’t play on Passover or other major holidays, Engel has become one of the top-ranked online poker players on the planet.
Casual Play Over Competition
Before the Summer Olympics in Rio this year, 14-year old Estee Ackerman attended the U.S. Olympic trials as the 14th ranked table tennis player in the nation. Following two fruitless sessions of qualifying, Ackerman – a proud practitioner of Orthodox Judaism who observes Shabbot – had one more opportunity to secure her spot on the Olympic squad.
She declined to compete, choosing instead to honor her religious traditions and observe the day of rest on Shabbat.
That doesn’t mean Ackerman put her paddles away though. She still plays ping-pong during Shabbat, but only in “leisurely” games that don’t involve genuine competition.
By keeping things casual – playing with no score or stakes and putting the emphasis on fun – you can still enjoy your favorite sports even as you observe Judaism’s holy rites.
Keep it Kosher with Awesome Apps
Unless you happen to live in thriving an urban metropolis like New York City – where kosher restaurants can be found on seemingly every corner – finding any sort of variety in your diet while dining out can be difficult indeed.
Regular travelers have it worse, forced to find a kosher alternative in unfamiliar areas with little to no frame of reference.
But thanks to the rise kosher restaurant location apps available on iOS and Android, including Kosher Near Me and Kosher Restaurants GPS, you can easily search listings in your location to seek out a suitable source of sustenance. Simply enter your zip code or street address, scan the mapped out locations, and decide on a restaurant sure to provide only the best in kosher cuisine.
And when Shabbat or other days of observance draw near, you can always load up a list of kosher restaurants with delivery service to help you stay full while you fulfill the obligations of your faith.
When you remain willing to consider the requirements of religious tradition in a new light, avenues for adaptation will naturally appear.
For Estee Ackerman, leaving aside the scorecard and playing for laughs alone made table tennis an acceptable Shabbat activity. Ari Engel didn’t feel comfortable winning money in casinos during Yom Kippur and other holidays, so he connected to online card rooms as an alternative. And millions of Jews around the world, kosher food finding apps provide a direct connection to acceptable dining options.
In each case, finding flexibility is a key component to combining Judaism’s traditions with today’s lifestyle.