Which (Jewish) Choices Are Opt In; Which Are Opt Out?

Seth Godin just posted a short piece on the incongruity of many opt in and opt out systems.

“Every year, tens of thousands of people die because organ donor status in the US is opt in. If you want to be an organ donor when you’re dead, you need to go through steps now to opt in. The default is “no. Press releases, send by the billions, seem to have become opt out. If you don’t want the barrage of nonsense, PR firms appear to believe that one by one you must alert each and every publicist in the world of your desire to not hear from them. 401 (k) plans tend to be opt in. If you do nothing, you get nothing. Talking to the police after getting arrested is strictly opt out. Nothing to sign, you just talk. Cheese on your pasta used to be opt out, but now it appears to be becoming opt in. Bacon should never be opt out. Sorry, but that’s just the way I feel.”

Of course, it’s the “bacon” quote that caught my eye. Taking the quip to mean that bacon should never be “opted out” because it’s so good, my first thought was to write a comment along the lines of “Hey, buster! For some of people (Jews and Muslims, to name a couple of groups) bacon is strictly off the menu!”

Then I realized a couple of things:

  1. he could have meant that bacon should never be the default, that it should always have to be asked for (opt in) if you want it
  2. bacon isn’t strictly off the menu for lots and lots of Jews (I won’t speak for Muslim friends here)
  3. Seth’s blog doesn’t support comments. So I really couldn’t post anything anyway

Focusing on the second point though, I started thinking about which of my Jewish choices I considered to be opt-in: things my family and I felt we had to actively sign up for; and which were opt-out: requirements that were incumbent on us and which we’d have to consciously choose to STOP doing.

So take a look at this list. Write down your answers. Add your own items to it. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Because unlike Mr. Godin, I want to know what you think!

  • Learning Hebrew
  • Bris ceremony (versus circumcision in the hospital or not at all)
  • Baby naming ceremony with the congregation
  • Giving tzedakah
  • Bar/Bat Mitzvah
  • Consecration
  • Upsherin
  • Confirmation
  • Lighting Shabbat candles
  • Keeping kosher
  • saying kiddush on Shabbat
  • Motzi over bread on Shabbat
  • Motzi over bread any time of the week
  • Washing hands before eating bread (on Shabbat and/or any other time)
  • Hanging a mezuzah (just one? more than one?)
  • Blessing children on Shabbat
  • Avoiding bread / eating Matzo during Passover
  • Attending synagogue on Shabbat morning
  • Marrying someone who is Jewish
  • Marrying someone who observes Judaism at the same level as you
  • Attending synagogue on High Holidays
  • Attending synagogue during the week
  • Sending children to Sunday/secondary religious school
  • Going to the mikvah
  • Sending children to Jewish day school
  • Leading / Learning to lead services

Remember, the point is to recognize which practices you feel are required of you versus which ones you feel are simply “nice” and you choose to to them (or not) as the situation permits. This is subtly different from whether you actually DID (or will do) them. For example, I feel that sending my children to a Jewish day school is “opt-in”. It’s not a requirement for me as a Jew, and I chose to send two of my children, but the other two attend public school.