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Meet VR

Some of y'all at South by Southwest may be new to Velveteen Rabbi, so I figured I'd offer a handy introduction here before the "Ghost in the Machine: Spirituality Online" panel this afternoon.

As my about page indicates, I'm a student in the Aleph rabbinic studies program. I'm also a poet (most recent collection, chaplainbook) and have worked as a nonprofit administrator and newspaper editor. I'm also, from time to time, a freelance writer; I wrote a piece about women in the godblogosphere ("Blog is my copilot") for Bitch a few years ago, and another piece about Jewish godbloggers for Lilith. I've been blogging since 2003.

I'm a contributing editor at Zeek: a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, and a co-founder of the Progressive Faith Blog Con. I write regular divrei Torah (commentaries) at Radical Torah, a group blog featuring progressive interpretations of Jewish scripture. I'm really interested in how godblogs make interfaith and ecumenical conversation, learning, and friendship possible.

You can find my favorite posts in the left-hand sidebar, under the heading "greatest hits." Here are three, randomly-chosen:

  • Facing Impermanence. "Though I'm comfortable with impermanence in theory, in practice it's difficult for me, and meeting death face-to-face seems like a way of accustoming myself to the koan that lives end. What does it mean to be embodied, yet more than our bodies?  What becomes of us when our bodies die? What does it mean to be holy in the face of finality and loss? These are some of the biggest questions I know, and serving on the chevra kadisha [volunteer burial society] seemed like an opportunity to learn."

  • Defining Renewal "'So what is Jewish Renewal, anyway?' You'd think I'd have a good response to that question, especially now that I'm a student in the Renewal rabbinic program. But I wrestle with the same 'elevator speech' problem that my friends over in Reconstructionist Judaism and Unitarian Universalism know so intimately; there's no good twelve-second definition of Jewish Renewal.

  • Being visible. "Tractate Kiddushin 31a of the Talmud says that the purpose of wearing a kippah is 'to remind us of God, who is the Higher Authority 'above us'.' Wearing a kippah makes me mindful, helps me bring blessing to what I'm doing, and reminds me to sanctify the work of my hands. Of course, an argument could be made that I'm always in God's presence, that I ought to bring blessing even to secular activities like folding laundry and buying groceries, and that every moment is worthy of sanctification. So why don't I wear a kippah all the time?"

Thanks for visiting VR! I hope you'll stick around.

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