Judaism emphasizes community, professor says

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One of the world’s oldest religions, Judaism, has more than 5.7 million followers in the United States alone, according to the 2016 World Jewish Population Report. Some of those followers can be found at the University of Indianapolis as faculty, staff and students including Instructor of Religion and Philosophy Kevin Corn. Corn, who teaches Christianity, World Religions, and an FYS course in American Religious Movements at UIndy, is a practicing Jew.

Corn said that one of the key ideas about Judaism is that those who identify as Jewish are not Jewish by faith alone. According to Corn, a few of the basic beliefs of Judaism include monotheism and the idea of a covenant, or a relationship with God.

“It is a radical monotheism, very much like Islam,” Corn said. “We don’t try to parse God. We don’t try to figure out what’s going on with God. That attitude precludes making a lot of statements about God being ‘3-in-1’ [the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit] and things like that. God is an ever-present, underlying reality.”

Corn said the relationship that Jewish people have with God is what distinguishes the religion from others. He also said that Judaism places more of an emphasis on community values rather than individual.

“A lot of Christians want to talk to Jews about salvation sometimes. But as far as Jews will talk about salvation, we’re generally talking about a collective salvation, as opposed to an individual one, and that all goes back to this idea of covenant,” Corn said. “Insofar as we make this deal with God—[that] we will follow these rules and do these things as God said to do them—it is really a pledge we make to each other and the idea that there is this thing called Israel.”

According to Corn, the Israel that he is referring to is not the modern state of Israel but an entity that all Jewish people are a part of. Corn said that this emphasis on a communal bond with God, rather than an individual relationship, makes Judaism unique.

“Most other people conceptualize religion in terms of some kind of individual salvation,” Corn said. “We [Jews] generally don’t.”

Cyle Moskowitz, a junior sociology major, said the university is very accommodating towards his Jewish beliefs. Both Corn and Moskowitz said that Judaism itself is also accommodating because it allows for many different styles of worship. There are three different types of Jewish practice, according to Corn: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.  Moskowitz practices Reform Judaism.

“It is a lot more accommodating, I would say, than most religions,” Moskowitz said. “Reform Judaism is a lot more accommodating to where you don’t really, technically, have to believe in God or believe in anything like that. It is more open to questioning things and stuff of that sort.”

Corn also said that one of the basic ethical principles of Judaism is to “treat other people the way you want to be treated.” This belief, Corn said, is one that is present in many other religions and a key similarity of  Judaism and other faiths.

“That’s [the belief is] kind of a universal moral rule, and it is certainly explicit in the books of the Bible,” Corn said. “That would be an idea that we share with everybody, but we certainly try to govern our community based on those ideas.”

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