This weekend, my co-chair Rabbi David and I are off to Philaldephia for the next stop on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour! (That link goes to our new webpage describing the listening tour -- what we're doing, why we're doing it, where we're doing it. Every time I look at the graphic at the top of that page I want a Listening Tour t-shirt...)
Like our stop in Boston a few weeks ago, this weekend will feature some events which are open to the public. On Friday night we'll have Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday night at Mishkan Shalom, which will feature some Torah from R' David and some poetry from me. On Saturday morning we'll be at P’nai Or, where the plan calls for Torah study at 9:15am and davenen at 10:30. There will be a 1pm lunch and a 2pm open mike session at P'nai Or where we will harvest hopes, dreams, and feedback from the community. If you're in the area, have an investment in the future of ALEPH and/or Jewish Renewal, and have an interest in adding your voice to the chorus, we hope you'll join us.
There will also be some events over the course of the weekend which are for a more intimate group of curated guests. We've done this in both of the cities where we've traveled thus far (New York and Boston) and both times it's been pretty extraordinary. Philadelphia is one of the centers of Jewish Renewal life, so this time around our balance of self-identified Renewalniks to others is different than usual. Over the course of our weekend in Philadelphia we'll be meeting with Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center, Rabbi Deborah Waxman (President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College), Rabbi Shawn Zevit (of Mishkan Shalom and the ALEPH Ordination Programs va'ad), Rabbi Marcia Prager and Hazzan Jack Kessler (of P’nai Or and the ALEPH Ordination Programs va'ad), and more.
As in all of our Listening Tour stops, we're making an effort to listen to "insiders" as well as "outsiders." We want to hear from those who have been part of Jewish Renewal for a long time, and also those who are new to Renewal, and also those who perhaps don't see themselves as part of Renewal per se but are doing the kind of meaningful, heart-centered, innovative re-creation of Judaism with which we resonate. Our conversations thus far have been both broad and deep.
And we continue to make a spiritual practice of receptive listening. We want to hear what you need to tell us about ALEPH and about Jewish Renewal, whether it is praise or critique or a mixture of the two. We want to know your hopes and dreams for the Jewish future, and your suggestions for how to work toward that future. We commit to holding your feedback in confidence. And we will do our best to incorporate everything we're learning and hearing into the State of Jewish Renewal report which we intend to offer next summer at the ALEPH Kallah (July 11-17 in Fort Collins, Colorado -- join us!)
On a purely personal level, and as someone who collects different prayer experiences, I'm especially excited about our Shabbat davenen plans. P'nai Or was founded in the early 1980s by Reb Zalman z"l, and is now led by Reb Marcia and Hazzan Jack. Reb Marcia is the dean of the ALEPH rabbinic program (and Hazzan Jack runs the ALEPH cantorial program), so I've davened with them many times over the years, though never in their home community. And Mishkan Shalom is home to A Way In, an initiative which focuses on Jewish mindfulness practice, of which I have been a longtime fan from afar.
(Reb Marcia and Reb Shawn together run the Davenen Leadership Training Institute, a two-year liturgical leadership training program about which I blogged frequently. DLTI was one of the best experiences I had in rabbinic school, and continues to deeply shape not only how I lead davenen but also how I enter into prayer in order to be able to lead others there. Getting to spend a weekend davening with the two of them is my idea of a good time.)
And I'm looking forward both to the open mike and to the curated sessions. It's inspiring and humbling to sit with people -- some of whom have renewing Judaism longer than I've been alive! -- and take in their insights about where Jewish Renewal has been and where we might yet go. And it's exciting to sit with people who are collaborating with us in the big-picture work of revitalizing the Jewish landscape and making heart and spirit central to Jewish experience -- regardless of whether they consider themselves part of "organized Jewish Renewal" -- and share hopes and dreams for what the Jewish future might hold and how we might work together in holy service to shape that future.
Our Philadelphia weekend will be co-hosted by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, P’nai Or, and Mishkan Shalom. If you're in the Philadelphia area and are able to join us for Friday night or Saturday morning services, and/or for the open mike after Shabbat lunch, I hope to see you there.
(For more on this, check out An Update on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour at Kol ALEPH.)