Image of Reb Arthur courtesy of an old issue of New Menorah.
Today is Rabbi Arthur Waskow's 75th birthday. In honor of that milestone, he and I sat down over Skype to chat recently, with an eye toward me writing a profile of him for Zeek. That profile was published this weekend, and here's how it begins:
I first met Arthur in 2002 when I attended a week-long class on tikkun olam which he was teaching at the old Elat Chayyim retreat center in Accord, New York. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a terrific introduction to his life and work...
ZEEK: The four worlds framework has been central to your writing and teaching, so I'd like to use it to shape our conversation. Let's begin in the world of assiyah, action and physicality. During the Carter administration you sought to shape plans for community-based renewable energy; today you're still writing and speaking about the dangers of "global scorching." That you're still working on these issues is inspiring...and also depressing. Have we moved forward at all?
AW: In the Carter administration, the research which showed that there was global scorching and that CO2 had a major impact didn't yet exist. We were working out of concern not about shattering the planet but about the power of big oil. We wondered, would it be possible to create a community-based solar energy industry that would transfer power to people's own neighborhoods and workplaces?...
I had the pleasure of interviewing Reb Arthur early in the month of Ramadan and Elul. We talked about the origins of the Freedom Seder, his early work in sustainable power, and his deep ecumenical work (an inspiration to my own -- he was one of the featured roundtable speakers at the Progressive Faith Blog Con a few years ago.) If you're new to Reb Arthur's work, I hope this piece will give you a sense for who he is and why I admire him. And even if you've been in his sphere for a while, I hope you'll enjoy reading his inimitable turns of phrase.
As the introduction to the piece notes, Reb Arthur was one of my first teachers within Jewish Renewal and within ALEPH, so it was a particular treat to get to interview him and to shape this profile of his life and work.
Don't miss the YouTube video embedded at the end of the article -- if you've never heard Reb Arthur speak, you're in for a treat. Thanks, Reb Arthur, for the teaching and the conversation. Happy 75th birthday, and many more! Read the whole profile here: Hearing the Call: Rabbi Arthur Waskow.