Retreat scholar epitomizes pluralism of Judaism

Rabbi Ariella Graetz-Bartuv

Victoria Siegel

At a retreat designed for women to connect with women from different streams of Judaism, Rabbi Ariella Graetz-Bartuv seemed the perfect fit to serve as scholar-in-residence.

Graetz-Bartuv experiences the pluralism of Israel and the Jewish community in her daily life. She was raised in a Conservative family with a father who was a rabbi, and she is a Reform rabbi whose husband is Orthodox.

“The whole Jewish world is challenged by how to pray together, to study together,” she said. “So people don’t know each other and are separated. Each has their own schools. So what happens is we don’t practice pluralism, each stream goes to its own world. So at these women’s retreats, we as women have this opportunity to come together. This is also very much me, my life story.”

Jewish identity and pluralism were the themes of Graetz-Bartuv’s talks at the Nishmah Women’s Shabbat Retreat held last weekend at Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center.

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“I wanted the women who attended to learn that we could be together, that each one of us could stay with her own identity, and nothing will happen to your identity if you come and practice Judaism together with other people,” she said. “To pray together and study together, to listen to each other, won’t hurt your Jewish identity or where you come from.”

Graetz-Bartuv also talked about identity in terms of raising children. She explained that the Jews in Israel, America, Europe and everywhere face the same challenges.  

“The fact that the children are Jewish doesn’t really matter to them,” she said. “It’s more important for them to think of themselves in terms of values as human rights people, as global people, as environmental people. And many times they don’t understand that these very values are what Judaism is about. We have to find a new relevancy and new purposes for young people to be Jewish.”

Graetz-Bartuv explained that parents need to be role models for their children by showing them, not just telling them. So by learning and studying themselves, parents are then modeling a commitment to education to their children. 

“The Eskimos have many words for snow,” she said. “We have many words for education because that’s the most important thing. Kids today are deep and smart and are looking for meaning all the time.”

Graetz-Bartuv said parents need to teach their children that life is full of meaning.  

“If people teach that to their kids and do it for themselves, it’s a very important message that goes out to the children,” she said.

Graetz-Bartuv said that it’s not enough just to be born Jewish. We must do something because being a Jew is mindfulness.