Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin to speak on the value of religion, even among ‘nones’


It’s common for people to encounter questionnaires, surveys, or paperwork with the question:  “what is your religion?” Some may check the box labelled Christianity, others Judaism, others Buddhism, and so on. But a growing population finds themselves checking a box labelled “none.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin will address this population in a lecture called “Looking for God in All the Right Places: an Appeal to the ‘Nones,’” premiering at 2 p.m. EDT, Monday July 6, on CHQ Assembly. 

Salkin said that these “nones” describe themselves as having no religion. This could be because they never had one, or because they’ve left their own. This could even mean people who see themselves as spiritual, but do not participate in any organized religion. 

“It is not my experience that people leave religions because of anger; they’re more likely to leave out of disappointment. I’m speaking about what we can do to reinvigorate mainstream religion,” Salkin said, iIn particular, looking through my lens, which is modern Judaism.”

Aside from his work as a rabbi, Salkin has written 10 books and maintains a blog about Judaism and culture titled “Martini Judaism: for those who want to be shaken and stirred.” Salkin said that in his writing, he hopes to challenge general assumptions of what faith should look like.

“One of the things I like to talk about is the intersection between Judaism and American culture (at large),” Salkin said. “I think that one of the great aspects of religion is that it has always been able to speak truth to power. I also would like Judaism to speak truth to culture.”

Recently, Salkin’s work has been informed by the Black Lives Matter protests erupting across the country. He said that as a Jewish man, he feels compelled to sympathize and align himself with any person facing oppression. 

“American Jews have historically felt and expressed vital sympathy and empathy for African Americans. We know what it is like to have lived in fear. As I said to my teenagers: Racism is to America as anti-Semitism is to Europe. It is our original sin,” Salkin said. “It is incumbent upon Jews to, in some way, create and deepen their relationships with African Americans, and to hear the cries of those who deem themselves oppressed.”

This concern manifested itself in one of his recent articles for “Martini Judaism,” about a young Black, Jewish woman who found herself as the target of a hate crime. He said in this article that her attack was likely due to her race and not her religion, but that distinction doesn’t matter. He wrote that those who hate Black people are the same who hate Jewish people, so the two peoples should live in solidarity. 

Salkin has been addressing subjects like these since publishing his first book nearly 30 years ago, but his passion for religion came much earlier. 

“It started when I went to Jewish summer camp. I fell in love with spirituality, and the sense of community, and the gateway to social justice that it provided and by the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to be a rabbi,” Salkin said. “I’ve been at it now for almost 40 years. It continues to be what wakes me up in the morning.”

This program is made possible by the Deloras K. and L. Beaty Pemberton Lectureship.

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The author Jamie Clarkson

Jamie Clarkson is a first-year reporter at The Chautauquan Daily, covering everything from the environment to the African American Heritage House and Heritage Lecture Series. In May 2020, Jamie graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism with specializations in women’s, gender and sexuality studies and music from the Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She will return to Scripps in the fall to pursue her master’s degree. This summer she will be quarantine-reporting from her home in Bremen, Ohio.