Over the years I have been asked:

What kind of a rab­bi are you?

To which I answer with­out hes­i­ta­tion:

A good rab­bi!

And then my inter­locu­tor stam­mers a bit and says:

No, no, what… oh, ah…. Are you…?

At which point I gen­tly inter­rupt and say:


I men­tion this here, now, because over at the JPS Inter­ac­tive blog Sara Simkin used the term “fla­vors” to describe var­i­ous groups in con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish life.

(at least as many as) 36 righteous flavors

I shared my think­ing:

I’m so glad to see the use of the term “fla­vors” here. I have used the word and described myself as a “Neapoli­tan Jew” for many years.

I explain the expres­sion in the fol­low­ing man­ner: There is no “pro­gres­sion” from one “move­ment” or “stream” of Judaism to any oth­er (as in a rain­bow or a col­or wheel). Each fla­vor elic­its a dif­fer­ent taste in the mouth of the par­tic­i­pant. Some fla­vors stress the peo­ple­hood aspect of what it means to be a Jew, oth­er fla­vors stress the ful­fill­ment of תרי“ג מצוות‎. And in the mean­time, oth­er fla­vors stress the eth­i­cal aspects of the מצוות‎… and on they go.

None of these are nec­es­sar­i­ly mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. How­ev­er, in the way that vanil­la, choco­late, and straw­ber­ry each tick­le dif­fer­ent parts of our taste buds but turn to mush when melt­ed, each fla­vor of Jew­ish liv­ing offers spe­cial qual­i­ties that get lost when it is not respect­ed for what it has to bring.


When­ev­er I speak about the var­i­ous fla­vors in Jew­ish life I do so in alpha­bet­i­cal order to make clear that that is the only mean­ing­ful “pro­gres­sion”. So we can speak of (and this is by no means com­plete):

  • con­ser­v­a­tive
  • gas­tro­nom­ic
  • hare­di
  • just
  • ortho­dox
  • recon­struc­tion­ist
  • reform
  • renew­al
  • sec­u­lar
  • zion­ist

And, as you can see, some of these over­lap. Sara’s list is a bit dif­fer­ent from mine here, and oth­ers have com­ment­ed there adding more. Please feel free to

I am a mem­ber in good stand­ing in one par­tic­u­lar rab­bis’ orga­ni­za­tion for pro­fes­sion­al and col­le­gial pur­pos­es. I have at var­i­ous times been a mem­ber of oth­er groups of rab­bis (both pro­fes­sion­al­ly and ide­o­log­i­cal­ly). You get the idea.

Rabbis for Human Rights - North America

Rab­bis for Human Rights — North Amer­i­ca

Date: 2008
Size: 6.35
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text Rab­bis for Human Rights — North Amer­i­ca
[in Ara­bic and Hebrew as well as Eng­lish]
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