Visions of Renewal in Connecticut

White-1One of the great joys of being an unofficial ambassador for Jewish Renewal is getting invited to share spiritual technologies that have deeply shaped my life and my rabbinate with new communities that may not yet have experienced them.

Over the weekend of November 3-5, Rabbi David Markus and I will be scholars-in-residence at Temple B'nai Chaim in Georgetown, Connecticut!

We'll be there over the weekend of parashat Vayera (the Torah portion is named after its first word, "And God appeared" or, more broadly "And God caused Abraham to see") so we've framed our introduction to Jewish Renewal through the lens of vision. 

We'll be co-leading a musical, poetic, uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday night; offering a Torah study on Shabbat morning; gathering with the community at 5pm for se'udat shlishit (the "third meal" of Shabbat, where we'll "dine" on poetry and song themed around yearning at that most poignant time of the week), havdalah, and some learning about angels in Jewish tradition. On Sunday morning we'll offer two short programs on "spirituality on the go" and on the mysticism of ordinary mitzvot.

Here's the full schedule for our weekend, and here's a Facebook event where you can indicate if you're coming. If you're in or near Connecticut and are able to join us, we'd love to see you there!

In humbling company

Os-1495650588-aa4h4pl014-snap-imageAlthough this came out a month ago, it only last night reached my eyes: Judaism Shines Through All They Do: Ginsburg, Sandberg, Barenblat. Written by Haley Codron, this opinion piece ran last month in the Orlando Sentinel, and it puts me in some truly humbling company.

As May is Jewish American Heritage Month, I want to honor three women whose Judaism shines through all they do: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and “Velveteen Rabbi” blogger Rachel Barenblat.

As I contemplate the leadership of Ginsburg, Sandberg and Barenblat, I’m reminded of advice from my parents. They told me what to discuss – or not to discuss – at dinner tables: politics, religion and money. A part of me understands where my parents were coming from; the three topics are flashpoints. But there has to be an element of “picking sides.” Which is precisely why the three women make a difference – a positive difference, and have influenced me and countless people around the world...

Codron writes about Ruth Bader Ginsburg (one of the most extraordinary women alive today, in my estimation), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (whose book Option B I've been intending to read), and me. I'm honored to be in their company.

You can read the whole piece here: Judaism Shines Through All They Do: Ginsburg, Sandberg, Barenblat.

A welcome message to Bet Ha'Am

For those who are interested... here's the welcome video we made to introduce ourselves to the community at Bet Ha'Am, where we'll be Bernstein scholars-in-residence this weekend. Over the course of three minutes, we talk a little bit about Jewish Renewal and the tools we've found there for harvesting joy and meaning in Judaism, and we close with the song that will be our musical theme for our weekend together:

(If you can't see the embedded video, it's on YouTube here.)

To everyone at Bet Ha'Am: we're both driving north today, and hope to make it to you safely despite the projected rainstorms. We look forward to being with y'all for Kabbalat Shabbat tonight and for the weekend to come!

And to everyone else, Shabbat shalom and blessings from our hearts to yours.

Coming to Maine!


The month of May is almost upon us, and with it comes a weekend I've been looking forward to for some time: an opportunity to visit Congregation Bet Ha'Am in Portland, Maine with Rabbi David Evan Markus! We're honored to be this year's Bernstein Scholars-in-Residence there. (Previous years' scholars have included Dr. Nehemia Polen, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, and Rabbi Art Green.)

Over the course of our weekend, we'll be co-leading a Kabbalat Shabbat service, offering Shabbat morning Torah study, offering a Shabbat evening se'udah shlishit ("third meal") and havdalah program with teaching and poetry, and sharing some teaching with their community Hebrew school on Sunday morning. Through song, text, teaching, and experience we'll offer an introduction to Jewish Renewal.

Here's what they've shared about our visit on their website:

Congregation Bet Ha'am, through the Rosalyne S. & Sumner T. Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence Fund, is proud to welcome this year’s Bernstein Scholars-in-Residence, 'The Velveteen Rabbi" Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Markus, co-chairs of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Mark your calendars and plan to join us for the weekend of May 5-7, 2017.

The weekend marks the halfway point between Passover and Shavuot, exactly halfway between liberation and revelation. Here, the Torah teaches us “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Activities and discussions will focus on the themes of love, community, and holiness through various practical and spiritual lenses. We’ll look at how Jewish Renewal can use themes and motifs to deepen the spiritual experience of public prayer services timed to the Torah cycle and the spiritual flow of the year, how mitzvot are intertwined with ritual, and the support of Jewish community in modern times.

Friday, May 5, 7:30 PM - Kabbalat Shabbat Evening Service: Holiness, Love, and Community - Loving your neighbor in modern times.

Saturday, May 6 9:00 AM - Torah Study: The spiritual and practical of community and renewal.

6:00 PM - Potluck Seudat Shlishit and Havdalah: Havdalah Service with a program on Illness and Healing.

Sunday, May 7 10:30 AM - Adult and Children’s Workshop Mitzvah and Mysticism - Holy Doing and Holy Being.

All are welcome!

Please contact Benjamin Gorelick in the Bet Ha'am office at 879-0028 or [email protected] for more information about this exciting weekend.

If you're in or near Portland Maine, we hope to see you there next weekend.

Coming soon to Temple Sinai


This coming Sunday I'll be the featured poet at the eighth annual Jewish Poetry Festival at Temple Sinai. Temple Sinai is at 50 Sewall Avenue in Brookline, MA.

I'll be sharing poems at 2pm, followed by Q-and-A. I'm planning to share some poems from Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda, 2016) and from 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), as well as a few poems from my as-yet-unpublished next collection Texts to the Holy.

70facessmall  Open-my-lips-small

My reading will be followed by an open mike (sign up at the door to share your own poem on themes of family, community, and/or Jewish life) and snacks.

After the reading I'll have books for sale, and am happy to inscribe them for you. I hope to see some of you there!


For more information: 8th Annual Jewish Poetry Festival at Temple Sinai.

Featured on Greylock Glass

Greylock-nation_FB_timeline_300x300I had the profound pleasure recently of sitting down with Kate Abbott of BTW Berkshires, and with Rabbi David Evan Markus (my dear friend and ALEPH co-chair), for a conversation that was both wide-ranging and deep.

Kate was interviewing us about ALEPH and Jewish Renewal for the Greylock Glass podcast. (Here's her archive at Greylock Glass.)

We spoke for more than an hour: about Judaism, Jewish Renewal, the legacy of Reb Zalman z"l (of blessed memory), the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, deep ecumenism, and ALEPH's recent resolution that if President-Elect Trump should obligate Muslims to register as such with the government we urge all Jews (and all Americans) to register as Muslims to thwart that nefarious plan. We spoke about the evolution of religious tradition, about the life of the spirit, and about maintaining hope in dark times

This episode of the podcast is about a number of community efforts for solidarity and inclusion. In addition to conversations with us, the podcast includes Nick Cave's exhibit at MASS MoCA, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi coming to speak at Simon's Rock, and four young WordxWord poets reading as part of Othering, the November art show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

Kate is a terrific journalist, and has a gift for eliciting deep answers to incisive questions. It probably also doesn't hurt that I've known Kate for many years (since the days when journalism was my own career, back when I was editor of The Women's Times, before Inkberry and before rabbinical school), and I've known David even longer. It's easy for conversations among old friends to go to meaningful places. 

The podcast episode that arose out of that conversation is now live, and you can listen to it online: Will Call #54: Standing Up Against Othering. (Our segment starts around 47 minutes in, and lasts for about half an hour, but I recommend listening to the whole thing.)

A weekend with NHC


I spent a lovely weekend at Camp Ramah at the National Havurah Committee's New England Retreat

It was sweet to spend the weekend with people who are passionate about their Judaism. Everyone who comes to a weekend retreat like this one is invested in Jewish life and practice, and there's something restorative about being surrounded by others who care about some of the same things that matter so deeply to me.

It was fun both to reconnect with some of my ALEPH hevre (including Rabbi David Seidenberg of NeoHasid, Rabbi Cherina Eisenberg, and rabbinical student Carl Woolf) and to meet other NHC regulars, many of whom were unfamiliar with ALEPH and Jewish Renewal. It's fun to get to be an ALEPH ambassador and to answer questions about who we are and what we do. It was fun to share poems on Saturday night, to teach a psalm-writing workshop on Sunday morning, and to co-lead davenen (prayer) on Sunday with Rabbi David, too.

We planned Sunday morning davenen with the intention of sharing Jewish Renewal spiritual technologies: some favorite melodies and chants, attentiveness to transitions between weekday nusach (the melodic system standard for weekday prayer) and melodies, bilingual davenen, freeform English prayer on the themes of the classical Hebrew (especially for the bakashot, the "requests" at the heart of the weekday amidah), imagery and meditation, and more. I think our offering was well-received, and it was sweet for me to get to ring in the new week with this kind of davenen b'tzibbur (prayer in community.)

Deep thanks to Mark and Steve for inviting us to be present, to teach and to learn, and to enjoy a beautiful snowy weekend in the woods outside of Palmer! 

DIY Judaism with ALEPH and Judaism Unbound


Episode 22 of the Judaism Unbound podcast featured Rabbis Rachel Barenblat and David Evan Markus, co-chairs of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. In this live talkback at 8:30pm EST on Monday December 12, join the co-chairs and the hosts of Judaism Unbound for a conversation about "Do It Yourself" Judaism. What does it mean to take Judaism into our own hands and to seek in Judaism answers to the questions of this hour? How are people reshaping and renewing Judaism today? How can we make Judaism our own, and what tools and practices are at our disposal? Come talk with us about all of this and more.

The talkback will take place via Google Hangouts, and will be streamed to YouTube. The YouTube video will stay online even after the talkback is over, so those who aren't able to join us at that hour can watch it later. Shortly before 8:30pm EST on Monday, the Renewal Unbound page on the ALEPH website will be updated with a link to the Google Hangout where people can join us, and we'll embed the YouTube video on that page after the event is over. If you're able to be online on Monday night, join us on Google Hangouts and talk with us about DIY Judaism and the Jewish future you want to co-create! 

(For those who are Facebook users, here's a Facebook Event for the Talkback -- let us know if you can join us, and start thinking about the questions you want to ask...)

Come to the NHC Winter Retreat!

5bd1fd97-46fb-43ab-b377-b2602fab433aEver thought about attending a National Havurah Committee retreat? Next month they'll be holding their annual winter retreat in Palmer, MA from December 16-18.  This year’s retreat will feature a wide variety of ALEPH folks, including me and my co-chair Rabbi David Evan Markus, ALEPH-ordained Rabbi Cherina Eisenberg, ALEPH rabbinical student Carl Woolf, and Rabbi David Seidenberg.

Rabbi David will be teaching a workshop on angels, and I'll be teaching a workshop on writing prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving, and together we'll offer a workshop on the Shema and the mystical ascent of Isaac the Blind. We'll also be co-leading Sunday morning services together, so expect lots of harmony and song. (I'm already looking especially forward to that part.) Here's how the organizers describe the weekend:

Studying Torah and celebrating a musical Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat service begin the weekend together.  Friday evening continues with dinner, singing, and study sessions.  On Saturday and Sunday, take time for spirited prayer, or walk at the lake, study accessible texts, learn and sing new songs, stretch your body and your mind. There will also be a supervised program for children, with time for learning and entertainment as well as play – both inside and outdoors.

Camp Ramah in New England is located just outside of Palmer, MA, a few miles north of exit 8 off the Mass turnpike.  It is about an hour from either Boston or Hartford, CT, 90 minutes from Albany, NY or Providence, RI., and about 3 hours from New York City.

Download the full brochure and registration form!

I hope you'll join us!

Michigan, here I come!

On the roadI'm heading to Michigan today with my ALEPH co-chair Rabbi David Evan Markus. We have a few special things on our schedule for the weekend.

Tonight we'll be at Shir Tikvah in Troy, MI, to serve as the official ALEPH representatives at the installation of our dear friend and colleague (and fellow ALEPH Board member) Rabbi Aura Ahuvia as the new rabbi there.

Tomorrow morning we'll daven with Pardes Hannah, the Jewish Renewal / ALEPH Network minyan in Ann Arbor which happens to be led by our dear friend and teacher Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg (who taught both of us Hasidut in rabbinical school.) 

At both of those Shabbat services, we'll both offer some words of Torah: Rabbi David in prose, and me in poetry. 

And tomorrow night we'll be in Detroit at The Well for An Evening of Song and Spirit(s). (If you're interested in joining us, register at Space is limited, so sign up now!)

While we're in the area, we're hoping to see other hevre (colleagues), meet with some folks who are interested in ALEPH, and hopefully make a visit to Zingerman's, since I've been enjoying their mail-order business for years but have never been there in person.

I'm looking so forward to being with friends and colleagues this Shabbat. If you're in Michigan I hope to see you at Shir Tikvah, Pardes Hannah, and/or The Well!

A sweet Shabbat to all who celebrate. 

Meet you at the Well for "An Evening of Song & Spirit(s)" on 11/19

If you're in or near Detroit, meet you at the Well on November 19?

The Well is an innovative community-building, education, and spirituality outreach program geared toward the needs of young adults and those who haven't connected with other more mainstream institutions. I've wanted to visit for a while, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to do so with my ALEPH co-chair Rabbi David Evan Markus and our friend and teacher Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg. 

Rabbi Dan Horwitz has graciously invited us to be part of An Evening of Song and Spirit(s) beginning at 8pm on Saturday, November 19. We'll make havdalah and weave together an evening niggunim, stories, Hasidic teachings, and poetry. It will be yummy.

Song and Spirit

If you're interested in joining us, register at Space is limited and tickets are $10/ person. Deep thanks to Rabbi Dan for inviting Rabbi David, Rabbi Elliot, and me to share teachings, songs, stories, and poetry at this havdalah event. Hope to see some of you there!

Poetry by the sea


It's always a joy to visit Temple Beth El of City Island. For years I've been wanting to attend their annual Shabbat by the Sea -- and this year, on August 26, I will! Weather permitting, we'll meet for Kabbalat Shabbat at the seaside home of two members, Ken Binder and Steve Roth, who live at 2 Bay Street on City Island. (In case of rain, we'll meet at the synagogue instead.) 

This year, Shabbat by the Sea will be preceded by a spiritual poetry reading by yours truly. I'm planning to share some poems from my newest published collection, Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press 2016) as well as from the as-yet-unpublished manuscript of my next collection, Texts to the Holy, love poems for the Beloved (many of which were shared here in early form.)

All are welcome (though donations will be gratefully accepted before Shabbat begins). If you're near City Island, I hope you'll join us! Plan ahead for traffic and finding parking. Poetry reading at 5:45, outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat services at 7 (join us in the kabbalistic custom of wearing white to greet the Shabbes bride), lavish oneg to follow.


Join me for Shavuot at Isabella Freedman!

13178057_10154012469395781_6052018367941507131_nIn 2010, I was blessed to be able to spend Shavuot at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. (I wrote a little bit about the retreat: The Torah of Our Mothers, Reb Zalman Shavuot 5770, 4am, and Morning prayer, on retreat and after.) 

This year the Shavuot retreat -- co-presented by ALEPH -- features a lineup of some wonderful Jewish Renewal teachers and leaders. I'm honored to be one of the teachers at this year's Shavuot retreat.

I'm organizing a delegation from my synagogue to go down to Isabella Freedman, and as members of an ALEPH Network community we get a discount on registration. But the retreat isn't just for self-identified ALEPH folks -- it's open to everyone, and it is a tremendous experience. If you've ever wanted more out of Shavuot but haven't been sure how to find it, come to Isabella Freedman. Join us at the mountain. And get ready for some beautiful Torah to come down.

Learn more, and register, here at the Hazon website

Teaching at the ALEPH Kallah


I've just registered for this summer's ALEPH Kallah in Fort Collins, Colorado! 

Kallah is ALEPH's (usually) biennial week-long gathering. (Last year we held the Getting It... Together retreat instead, so it has now been three years since the last Kallah.) Reading about Jewish Renewal can be interesting and even compelling, but there's nothing like experiencing it for yourself. Kallah is an experiential deep dive into Jewish Renewal. It's an opportunity to spend a week in Jewish Renewal community, sharing learning, meals, heartfelt and innovative davenen (prayer), art and music, spiritual experience, and more.

The class and workshop guide is now online: Kallah 2016 Class and Workshop Guide. ("Class" means a four-day class -- every morning, or every afternoon; "workshop" means a one-day workshop. So you can sign up for a four-day morning class and a four-day afternoon class, or one four-day class plus four one-day workshops, or eight one-day workshops if you truly want the smorgasbord experience.) I highly recommend clicking on the interactive pdf file and reading through the whole catalogue. I'm excited about what I've signed up for, though I also wish I could clone myself so I could experience more!

I'm teaching at the Kallah this year -- or at least, I will be if enough people sign up for my class. For those who are interested, here's the description of what I'll be offering:


Midrash are interpretive stories (the name comes from the Hebrew לדרוש, to interpret). Midrash speak in a multiplicity of voices as they open new facets of Torah... and diving deep into Torah is one of the most perennial “Joys of Jewishing!” In this class we’ll begin by exploring classical midrash to examine how they work, then we’ll delve into contemporary midrash (in a variety of forms: poetry, music, film), then learn the midrashic process from the inside out as we write our own midrashic texts, embroidering our voices onto the ongoing tapestry of interpretation.

If writing your own midrash sounds like fun, I hope you'll join me. Enrollment in my class is limited, so sign up now!

I've also signed my son up for the Kids' Kallah -- a fabulous daycamp offered in conjunction with the Adventure Rabbi. I am so excited at the prospect of introducing him to my Jewish Renewal community, and introducing them to him in return. (I have fond memories of the Kallah seven years ago which I attended whie pregnant; I imagined, then, what it might be like to someday bring my kid to Kallah. And now I finally get to do so!)

Early-bird pricing is still in effect; if you register before April 14, you get 5% off. Read all about it and register now!


I've posted a fair amount over the years about different experiences with the ALEPH Kallah; if you're so inclined, you can read those old posts via my ALEPH Kallah tag.

In three weeks: a Shabbaton in Las Vegas

VegasOver the weekend of April 8-9 -- three weeks from this coming weekend -- I'll be the scholar-in-residence for a Shabbaton (a Shabbat retreat) hosted by Congregation P'nei Tikvah in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

The weekend will feature a Friday night dinner as our kabbalat Shabbat experience; a Shabbat morning Torah study and brunch; and a Saturday evening poolside havdalah and dessert gathering -- complete with poetry reading!

I'm looking forward to meeting members of the P'nei Tikvah community, and to spending time with my host there, Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, who I have known for many years through OHALAH, the association of Jewish Renewal clergy.

This isn't officially part of the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, but on Shabbat afternoon there will be some conversations about Jewish Renewal's past, present, and future even so.

If you are in or near Las Vegas, I hope you'll consider joining us for the Shabbaton! The organizers are asking people to sign up (and pay) by April 1, so -- please let them know if you're planning to join us.

(From Las Vegas I will be moving on to the California stops on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, so if you're in southern or northern California, stay tuned for more information there.)

Returning to Rabbis Without Borders

Rwb_logoI'm heading south today for the annual gathering of Rabbis Without Borders fellows at Pearlstone, a Jewish retreat center outside of Baltimore. This will be my third annual retreat. It's always fun to reconnect with this group of colleagues in person.

Like my ALEPH community, RWB spans denominational boundaries. Rabbis Without Borders fellows come from backgrounds ranging from Reform to Orthodox and everything in between. And like my ALEPH community, we're consciously pluralistic, and deeply invested in the work of co-creating a Judaism which will serve the future's needs. 

This year I'm giving back to the community a bit more than in years past. With Rabbi David Markus, I'll be co-leading a Renewal-style weekday morning service on Monday. We're planning a mixture of weekday nusach, beloved melodies, and new uses for Nava Tehila's Livnat HaSapir.  We'll also be offering a session with Rabbi Evan Krame of The Jewish Studio, themed around a four-worlds look at the ecosystem of Jewish innovation. (That ecosystem is being talked about a lot on our Listening Tour.)

Speaking of which, we'll also be holding informal Listening Tour conversations with groups of RWB colleagues over the course of the retreat. We already have hundreds of pages of notes from the stops we've already made, and every time we sit down with people to talk about Jewish Renewal's past, present, and future, I come away more energized about the work we're doing in ALEPH. (So RWB colleagues, if y'all want to share your perspectives on the renewing of Judaism, come and find us.)

If past years' experiences are anything to go by, those of you who follow me on Twitter are likely to see an upsurge in my posting there over the next several days. (This year's retreat is themed around Exploring Rabbinic Risk-Taking -- if that interests you, keep an eye on @rwbclal and #rwbclal.) I expect that when I get home late on Wednesday night I'll be physically tired, but the tiredness will be balanced by the energizing experience of learning, talking, and davening with this great group of hevre.

Teaching in Tikshoret

This winter, ALEPH is launching a new adult education program called Tikshoret: Contemporary Connections in Jewish Learning. (The name tikshoret comes from the Hebrew root which means connection -- the idea is that these classes will connect participants with our tradition's many riches.) The classes will be offered online via zoom videoconferencing, will be relatively brief (a few sessions, rather than a full semester), will be affordable (an accessible taste of Jewish Renewal Torah), and should be a lot of fun. And fortunately, our first Tikshoret class is being taught by someone who won't mind if we're still working the bugs out of the system as we go -- me. 

Feb 17, 24, March 2 & 9 – 8-9:30pm Eastern (US) Time

Writing the Psalms of Our Hearts
Instructor: Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Rachel-squareThe psalms are a deep repository of praise, thanksgiving, grief, and exaltation, one of our communal tools for connecting with God. In this class, each of us will become a psalmist. We’ll awaken our spirits and hearts by praying select psalms together, warm up our intellectual muscles with writing exercises, and enter into a safe space for creativity as we each write our own psalms. After sharing our psalms aloud and sharing our responses to each others’ work, we’ll close by davening together once more.

Learn more about Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Cost: $125


All are welcome. If you would enjoy writing a handful of psalms, I'd love to have you in the class!

Upcoming classes will be taught by Shoshanna Shechter-Shaffin ("Eve and Lilith: Secrets of the Creation of the Divine Feminine"), Hazzan-Magid Steve Klaper, Rabbinic Pastor Dr. Simcha Raphael, and Rabbi David Zaslow -- more information about each of those classes will appear on the Tikshoret page on the ALEPH website, so check that out (and when you go there, a window will pop up inviting you to join the ALEPH mailing list -- that's the easiest way to ensure that you'll get updates on forthcoming programs and events.)

The freedom seder, feminist seders, and transformation

Yesterday afternoon I gave a talk as part of Colorado University's second biannual Embodied Judaism Symposium, "Freedom Seder: American Judaism and Social Justice." I spoke about how Rabbi Arthur Waskow's historic 1969 Freedom Seder helped to pave the way for the feminist seder movement and for a broader shift in how we understand seders and the story at their heart -- and about how that work was, and is, a core part of Jewish Renewal.

For those who are interested, here are the slides from my talk. Video should be forthcoming on YouTube -- stay tuned!


Thanks again to the folks at CU for inviting me to speak. It was an honor to represent ALEPH among such luminaries as Professor Riv-Ellen Prell (Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota), Professor Adam Bradley (Founding Director of the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture at CU-Boulder), and Rabbi Arthur himself.

Off to Colorado

I'm traveling to Colorado today for a very brief visit (flying west today, and back east on Friday -- truly short and sweet!) in order to speak at a Colorado University Embodied Judaism Symposium on the Freedom Seder (about which I posted recently.)

I've grown accustomed to going to Boulder once a year for the OHALAH conference of Jewish Renewal clergy, and a couple of summers ago I traveled there in August for the Remembering Reb Zalman memorial. But it feels a little bit strange to be going there for a purpose other than davening, learning, and reconnecting with my Jewish Renewal hevre (beloved colleague-friends).

Of course, I do expect to see some of my hevre at this symposium. The conference is honoring Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who has been a part of Jewish Renewal from the beginning. And there are some wonderful Jewish Renewal folks who call Boulder home, some of whom will probably be joining us. But this symposium is an academic enterprise, not an explicitly spiritual one, and it's open to a broad audience, not just Jewish Renewal clergy.

Colorado University is graciously putting me up at the Boulderado, a beautiful old hotel in downtown Boulder. That feels like a strange kind of homecoming too, because my first several OHALAH conferences were held there! (I still have fond memories of a late-night liturgy class there in the hotel bar.) I suspect that as I walk through the building, I will perennially feel as though I am almost glimpsing old friends and dear teachers just out of the corner of my eye.

If you'll be at the symposium, I hope you'll come up and say hi! Once the event is over there will be guided tours of the Freedom Seder exhibit and the exhibit on the work of Reb Arthur, and I imagine I will be hanging around there chatting with whoever wants to talk. I'll post my slides on Friday, so stay tuned...


Symposium on the Freedom Seder

EmbodiedjudaismThe very first time I went on a Jewish Renewal retreat -- a week-long retreat at the Elat Chayyim Center for Jewish Spirituality, which was then in Accord, NY -- I spent my mornings studying Jewish meditation with Rabbi Jeff Roth (now of the Awakened Heart Project) and my afternoons talking tikkun olam /healing the world with Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center. I knew Reb Arthur's work already because I had read his book Godwrestling. I suspect that's where I first learned about the Freedom Seder.

The Freedom Seder was held on the third night of Passover, April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, in the basement of a Black church in Washington DC. About 800 people took part, half of them Jews, the rest Black and white Christians. (If you're interested, the text of the original 1969 haggadah is available online -- and here's a terrific NPR piece: In Freedom Seder, Jews and African Americans Built a Tradition Together.)

This November, the Freedom Seder and its legacy will be celebrated at Colorado University in Boulder with their second biannual Embodied Judaism Symposium, Freedom Seder: American Judaism and Social Justice on Thursday, November 12 from 4:30PM – 6:30PM on the CU-Boulder campus. The symposium will explore American political activism and religious practice in the wake of the 1969 Freedom Seder.

I'm honored to be included among the speakers at that symposium. Reb Arthur will be there and will speak about the original Freedom Seder and its impact on twenty-first century struggles for social justice. I'm planning to speak about how the Freedom Seder used the particularistic Jewish language and frametale of the seder in order to express a vision of justice and a world redeemed, as well as the impact of the 1969 event on the last few decades' worth of feminist seders.

Adam Bradley, Associate Professor of English and Founding Director of the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture at CU-Boulder, will explore how the 1969 Freedom Seder’s core principles of grassroots social action, prophetic vision, and cross-racial collaboration are linked to the burgeoning hip hop culture of the mid-1970s. And Riv-Ellen Prell, Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, will address the cultural politics of the Freedom Seder and how the event challenged particularist understandings of Jewish ritual, recasting Jewishness as a radical platform for building bridges across race and religion.

I'm looking really forward to this symposium and to hearing what all of the other presenters have to say. If you're in the area and this sounds interesting to you, please join us! The Embodied Judaism Symposium is free and open to the public. However, space is limited, and RSVPs are required, so please email [email protected] or call 303.492.7143 to reserve a spot.