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Davening with the deer

Jewish Renewal Listening Tour: off to Boulder

6a00d8341c019953ef01bb0883e9fc970d-320wiToday I'm heading off, with Rabbi David and with our executive director Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin, on the final trip of our yearlong international ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour. The idea for the Listening Tour came to David and me on the plane home from Colorado two Januaries ago when we had just learned that we would be given the opportunity to serve ALEPH and Jewish Renewal by taking on a three-year term as co-chairs. It seems fitting that the last physical trip we're taking is back to Boulder.

Our weekend will feature a focus group hosted by the Jewish Studies department of Colorado University - Boulder; a dinner with the board of directors of Congregation Nevei Kodesh; Kabbalat Shabbat at Nevei Kodesh (where Rabbi David will be the darshan, offering a d'var Torah); morning services, followed by a Listening Circle, at Pardes Levavot; a session with the board of directors of Yesod; meetings with other area luminaries, among them Rabbinic Pastor Eve Ilsen; a se'udah shlishit (festive "third meal" of Shabbat) at Nevei Kodesh where I will offer poetry and teaching leading into havdalah and a community Open Mike where we'll harvest hopes, dreams, feedback, "ouches," and yearnings from the broader Jewish Renewal community.

The schedule follows the pattern we've evolved over the last year. We'll have opportunities to daven in different places. We'll have focus groups to harness the voices of longtime Renewalniks as well as those who may be outside of our usual spheres but are doing work which resonates with ours in heart and in spirit. We'll have meetings over meals, and an open mike where we will curate a broad community conversation. In these structural ways I expect this weekend to be parallel to the other Listening Tour Shabbatonim we've done across North America -- from Boston to Vancouver, from New York to San Francisco.  And, of course, we'll bring the same questions, and the same open-hearted readiness to listen, as we've brought everywhere we have gone.

In other ways, I know this weekend will be unique. Every place we visit has its own ta'am, its own flavor, its own way of doing and being Renewal. And Boulder is infused with a special kind of Jewish Renewal history and energy because it's where Reb Zalman (z"l / of blessed memory) lived for the last many years of his life. Maybe because it was Reb Zalman's last home, Boulder has special importance in the history of Jewish Renewal. Like Boston, Philadelphia and the Bay Area, Boulder is one of the places where Renewal first took root in its current forms.  Boulder too continues to lean forward into the newest iterations of what Jewish Renewal can be and become. CU Boulder is home to the Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi Collection at the Post-Holocaust American Judaism Archive, and we are working toward an ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Archive there as well. 

It's both exciting to be heading to Boulder for these conversations, and a little bit bittersweet to be approaching the end of this year of travel. We've learned so much during this year about the depth and breadth of Jewish Renewal: where we've come from, what we've done well and what we could do better, where people hope we're going next. It's a privilege to hear people's deepest yearnings for a Judaism that will truly nourish and connect them. And this year-long practice of receptive listening, setting aside our own hopes and ouches and visions in order to truly take in the hopes, ouches, and visions of hundreds of others, has been a powerful discipline for me... and I know that the vision for the future that emerges from this adventure will be immeasurably enriched by everything we have heard.

This weekend's trip doesn't mean that we're "done." We still have more focus groups scheduled via videoconferencing, to hear from people in places we haven't been able to visit in person. We're still collecting responses to our Listening Tour questions (find the questions, and an address at which to email us, at the Listening Tour webpage.) We'll spend the summer turning our hundreds of pages of notes into the report we'll issue at Rosh Hashanah to share what we've learned about how y'all understand Jewish Renewal's past and present, and what y'all (and we) hope will emerge in Jewish Renewal's future. And even once the Listening Tour is done, we still hope to travel to Jewish Renewal communities and to continue hearing from you about what you yearn for! But this weekend's trip will be the last official trip of the Listening Tour.

For now: if you're in the Boulder area, we hope to see you, whether davening at Nevei Kodesh or Pardes Levavot or at the havdalah and open mike on Saturday night.