Last night at synagogue, we had our annual gathering of the latest Merage fellows. These are entrepreneurs from Israel who have shown promise for their innovative or outstanding work in business and/or technology. The Rabbi is always anxious to show off our progressive shul to these fellows because in Israel, such synagogues generally do not exist. The ultra-Orthodox have a stranglehold on Judaism in Israel. Consequently, the majority of Israelis are alienated from the practice of Judaism, whereas, if they had such on option in their country, they might not be. He wants to inspire young Israeli go-getters to push for the broadening of Judaism in the Jewish state.
This group of fellows, not all of them that young, by the way, were all women. That was refreshing, since women have a different set of interests and concerns from men, and these women were far more outspoken than the fellows who have come to our shul in the past. The rabbi challenged them in his comments about the differences between Israelis and Americans, and they challenged him right back.
Out of the group, there was one probably very observant Jew who would not speak into the microphone, since this is technically not permitted on Shabbat. She spoke, actually at some length, more than once, but none of us could hear her.
It was an interesting inter-cultural meeting ground. I always get the feeling that though these people come from the same sorts of background as us, and several grew up or spent significant time in the English speaking world (Canada, Scotland, even the U.S.), they are very different in their assumptions and way of thinking.