Susannah Heschel remembers Abraham Joshua Heschel, his empathy, his hope, and his faith.
An activist reviews Waging Peace by David Hartsrough
Jewish Renewal, a new movement that emerged in the last decades of the 20th century, has become one of the most significant developments in Judaism in the lives of thousands of American and Israeli Jews. Sometimes described as neo-Hasidism by its proponents, and New Age Judaism by its detractors, this movement has produced a fusion of spiritual intensity in its prayers, astounding creativity in its theology, and a joyous renewal of the love-oriented aspects of Judaism. It refuses to let Holocaust grief, patriarchal or homophobic practices, or Zionist loyalty define what 21st century Judaism will be about. Its most significant well-known expositors are Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Judith Plaskow, Marcia Prager, Michael Lerner, Arthur Waskow, Shefa Gold, Tirzah Firestone, Burt Jacobson, David A. Cooper, Yitz & Shonna Husband-Hankins, Shaya Isenberg Bahira Sugarman, Simcha Rafael, Jeff Roth, David Seidenberg, Or Rose, Arthur Green, Shawn Zevit, David Ingber, Phyllis Ocean Berman, Daniel Siegel, and Elliot Ginsburg. Into this boiling over of creativity we can now add Sheila Peltz Weinberg and Rachel Werczberger.
Notes from the Jewish tradition that may be helpful to people in every tradition and to people who need to connect to ancient spiritual wisdom
WHAT MAKES THE Jewish approach to repentance and atonement relevant to North American and global politics is that it does not focus only on the ways we as individuals “sinned,” (actually, the real meaning of the word sin is to miss the mark; not some sense of being drenched in evil, but just getting off course) but rather recognizes us as part of a community for which we must take collective responsibility. North Americans are so used to the extreme individualism promoted by capitalist values that we rarely think of ourselves as having responsibility for each other. But that is precisely what is needed. So we at Tikkun, the interfaith and secular-humanist-and-atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls, have developed a set of confessions in the form of “we have sinned when . .
There was another picture of her at their wedding. Two young boys in coffee-colored suits stood behind them, holding guitars way too big for their bodies, surrounded by a crowd of what must have been a hundred, their priest dressed in white toasting them with a big glass of red wine.
As I walked home I felt as if my feet weren’t touching the ground. The bright faces of the handicapped children were imprinted in my memory, and now I thought of each one of them, walking and singing, the nuns looking after them. I retained the light of the convent within me: its grace touched me, expanding an inner space, cheering unknown corners.
Phil had Sheila on the mind when he walked into one of the BOYS bathrooms at Our Lady of Peace Elementary in West Russelsburg. He’d started his shift as Second Security Officer at 6:00am, about an hour before most teachers get there, and about an hour and a half before the earliest kids get dropped off for the Before School Fitness Club, which was really just thirty minutes of kids running in circles on the field while one of the coaches watched, thirty minutes of free daycare and an earlier arrival at the office for the parents who didn’t care if they made their poor kids show up sweaty for the 8:00am Daily General Assembly. Phil had Sheila on the mind when, at about 9:00am, the school was quiet except in the classrooms and he’d walked down the quiet hallway in the main classroom building and walked into one of the BOYS bathrooms. He’d been thinking about her all morning, as usual, and he’d been thinking about their seventh date—set to happen that night—and the fact that he was now going by Phil instead of Phillip, all because on their first date, three weeks ago, she said in a nervous fast-talking first-date kind of jitters voice, Phillip? Phil? Is that you?
How to experience God today
The present present times are so politically afflicted that we are psychologically altered. Seeing no path forward, walking blind, adrift like a rudderless ship, extinguishes our spark to live. We wind up forgetting what is essential.
Those who read my last article, Can present day Brazil be fixed?, find the background there for this refection on God. In moments like this, without being pietistic, we turn towards the Fountain that has always nourished humanity. Especially in somber times of generalized crises, we feel a longing for God.
Not Another Dark Holocaust Poem: Chava, Miriam, Auschwitz
by Renna Ulvang
It is tempting to dredge up ashy metaphors for your last days on earth
To remain riveted, horrified, impaled by thoughts of what it must have been like
Torn away from the comfort of a beautiful room, in your beautiful clothes, your ordinary Jewish lives
Turning away from the gathering gray clouds; the rumors, the stricken faces, the sinking fears pulling you into a reality too dreadful to be faced
And then, too late;
for Chava, for Miriam, too late
But wait, here is where I stop being able to go with you, onto that train, towards the sorting desk: live or die,
The barracks, the showers, the endings. Instead I carry you in my arms into the present
Into my music, quilting, cooking, tikkuning, praying and I feel you here in the invisible connections
Great-aunts with large breasts, recipes, laughter, wisdom, sewing machines, struggles: loving life, loving me. I hold you here, in the only life I have, living it in memory of you.
Renna Ulvang is a long time member of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue; a psychotherapist and certified spiritual director, companioning people in their search for connection to the Divine. (rennaulvang.com)
Cultivating a Spiritual Life
By Dave Hood
A man strolls through the woods, listening to the birds chirping, the rustling of the leaves, the river flowing in the background. A middle-aged woman takes photographs of her urban setting, and then creates expressive paintings. A young man takes up Buddhism, meditates, and strives to live a compassionate life. A young woman studying to become a social worker fights for social justice, attending a peace march. What does each of these people have in common?
I know she loves me. She’s told me as much. And I’ve tried my best to love her back, and I do—or have.
Before the Door of God
Edited by Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson
The Sea Sleeps: New and Selected Poems
by Greg Miller
Once in the West
by Christian Wiman
To overthrow the alienation and false needs of capitalism, we must imagine a culture of love, fearlessness, and honor for the sacred—then start building it.
The meaning of the virgin birth got lost in translation: it wasn’t meant to vilify female sexuality but to echo a prophetic challenge to oppression.
Click here to download our 2015/5776 High Holidays Repentance Workbook and click here to download a PDF of the Al Cheyt Prayer. For the Ways We Have Missed the Mark and Gone Astray—Al Cheyt Prayer, Meditation, and Spur to Transformation
A Supplement to the High Holiday Prayer Book (not a replacement)
On Yom Kippur, we invite you to use the following supplement along with the traditional confessional prayer, Al Cheyt. Bring this supplement along with your own list to Yom Kippur services. Don’t just go through the rote reading the traditional “sins,” many of which actually reach to the ways we “miss the mark” in our contemporary reality. If you are not Jewish or aren’t attending any High Holiday service, use this supplement at your home or with your friends at any time during these ten days of repentance!