I'm returning today to the Pearlstone retreat center outside of Baltimore for the Rabbis Without Borders Fellows alumni retreat. This will be my second year attending the alumni fellows retreat (fellows alumni? alumni fellows? people who've completed the Rabbis Without Borders fellowship) and based on my experience last year, I know I'm going to have a good time.
RWB Fellows are smart, thoughtful, interesting people. They approach spiritual life in meaningful ways. And because they come from across the Jewish denominations, they're all already ready and willing to learn and dine and daven and connect with people who "do Jewish" differently than they do.
Last year I wrote:
"What does it mean to be a rabbi without borders?" people ask. "Is it like Doctors Without Borders? Do you travel the world?" Not in the sense of accruing more stamps on my passport. The travel is between perspectives and viewpoints, not between nations.
Longtime readers know that I went to a transdenominational rabbinic school where students and faculty from all of the major streams or denominations of Judaism learned together. There are three such seminaries now, though I believe that ALEPH was the first, and ALEPH is unique in its explicitly Jewish Renewal orientation. Anyway: my whole adventure of rabbinic school learning was a transdenominational one. My primary context for rabbinic community has always involved people from different Jewish backgrounds with differing Jewish practices.
For that reason, although I knew I would enjoy the Rabbis Without Borders fellowship, I wasn't sure how groundbreaking or new it would feel to me. After all, sitting around a study table with Jews ranging from Reform to Orthodox was already a familiar part of my worldview, and so was the assumption that there is a multiplicity of valid paths toward truth.
So maybe it's not surprising that my experience of RWB/Clal has been in many ways parallel to my experience of ALEPH. It's not so much that the passionate pluralism of RWB feels new, as that it's a delight to discover another transdenominational rabbinic hevre (community of colleagues and friends) who share my ideals and my yearning to bring Judaism and God-connection to those who thirst.
(Here's the whole post from last year: On my two rabbinic communities, Rabbis Without Borders and ALEPH.) Everything I wrote then holds true now. I experience a lot of common ground between these two rabbinic communities... and both of them feel "borderless," in the sense that we transcend and include a variety of viewpoints and practices, and also in the sense that we are geographically dispersed; our community transcends borders because what connects us isn't geographic or doctrinal, it's heart and attitude and soul.
I'm looking really forward to reconnecting with this group, and to coming away with new ideas and new Torah percolating in my mind and my heart. The fellows alumni retreat is self-run; different fellows will offer sessions, text study, davenen, and so on. I don't know, going in, which sessions will resonate most with me -- but I know that the conversations will be grand, and I know that I'll come home enriched and ready to bring new wisdom to the community I'm blessed to serve.