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December 2011

A blessing for board elections

Both the synagogue which I serve as rabbi, and the Organization for Transformative Works where I serve as a Board member, are having Board elections this month. In light of this confluence, I offer the following.

May our hearts open to one another and to the community we strive to serve.

May we be kind to one another.

May we give one another benefit of the doubt.

May we listen to one another generously.

May we be willing, when it is appropriate, to set aside our own desires in the service of consensus.

May we be willing, when it is appropriate, to stand up for what we know to be right -- without diminishing the esteem with which we hold those with whom we disagree.

May we see the bigger picture of which we are all a part.

May we remember that there are things happening, in each person's life, to which we may not have access.

May we be compassionate with one another.

May we honor and thank those whose hard work has gotten us to where we are, and celebrate those who are willing to take the baton and continue the work ahead.

May all who serve reap joy.

And let us say: Amen!

Review, and poetry, in Seminary Ridge Review

I just got my copy of Seminary Ridge Review, issue 14:1, Autumn 2011, in which three of my poems appear. It's a beautiful magazine, published by Lutheran Theological Seminary. The Table of Contents contains articles including "A Contextual Reading of the Parable of the Persisisting Widow: An Indian Perspective" by Surekha Nelavala and "'Openness to the World:' Some Suggestions for Its Pastoral Bearings," by Leonard M. Humme, among othersl. (I am quite excited about reading all of these! There's a pdf available on the website, which includes all of this issue in full.)

The "Book Recommendations" section reviews of Mohja Kahf's E-mails From Scheherazad, of my collection 70 faces, and of Barbara Leff's And God Said: A Brief History of Creation. (I posted one of Mojha Kahf's poems here a few years ago; I'm looking forward to reading both of the books which were reviewed alongside mine.) The review of my book is gracious and generous. Here's a taste:

The book is infused with smoke, milk, blood, stars, curls of lemon, saddled donkeys, sinew, rafters hung with garlic, sand, apple skins, mountains. The scenes are well-set. The layout and forms support the narratives and the pacing for reading. The questions -- and there are plenty of questions -- are asked with the best sensitivity one could want in midrash explorations.

And then there's the "Poetry + Theology" section, which includes poems from Anne M. Higgins, Gary Fincke, Margaret Atwood, Paul David Steinke, Kathleen Rogers, Thomas Alan Holmes, and me. (I have three poems here: one Torah poem and two mother poems which are part of my as-yet unsold collection Waiting to Unfold.)

Deep thanks to the editors of Seminary Ridge Review; I'm honored to be included in this beautiful publication. (If you'd like to order a copy, individual copies are available for $9 per issue (includes domestic postage). Contact:

Seminary Ridge Press
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg 61 Seminary Ridge
Gettysburg, PA 17325

(Or, just download the pdf on the journal's website.)

Profile in the Berkshire Jewish Voice

David Verzi, who interviewed me for the Berkshire Jewish Voice in December of 2006, back when I was in rabbinic school (Rachel Barenblat: "When Can I Run and Play with the Real Rabbis?") interviewed me again recently; I'm honored by his portrayal, and hope I can live up to his kind words. The article appears below for those who are interested. Thanks, David!


Photo by David Verzi.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat: Light and Heat

By David Verzi

published in The Berkshire Jewish Voice, November 1 to December 1 2011 edition


By time honored custom, tradition and calling, a rabbi is sought to serve as a formal beacon of enlightenment and wisdom, this while much of modernity desires and demands that the illuminating insights of spiritual leaders come packaged within relaxed, comfortable, and comforting pew-side warmth.

These words with music, pedagogy with passion, light with heat combinations are no mean magic for a cleric to perform.

Fact is, it's no trick at all -- it's a feat melded with a gift.

For while the law, liturgy, and lessons that shed light can, through arduous scholarship, be attained for teaching: the heat, if authentic, must be childlike, filled with wonder, and heart-sprung.

At Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat -- ordained by "ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal" in January and installed on an interim basis by Beth Israel in July -- comprehensively emits the light via academic prowess, generated by near six years of rabbinic education and ongoing post-studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Williams College, and a Master in Fine Arts from Bennington College.

But, she "brings the heat," organically -- both through a clear-eyed, open-faced, grateful, articulate selflessness of character, wherein she seeks to find blessings in all things, and a bona fide love of her hundred-and-ten-family Reform congregation, within which, during the last ten years, Barenblat, 36, has played a critical role, as member, lay cantor, lay leader of services, and rabbinic student intern.

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