Friday, April 26, 2013

Arthur Green Coming to Town

Come learn with an extraordinary teacher (on a rare visit to Chicago),
      Rabbi Dr. Arthur Green
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
“Re-Reading Revelation: A New Approach For Shavuot”

At Ezra Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation
4500 Dempster Street, Skokie, IL 60076

Dr. Arthur Green is the Rector of the Rabbinical School of and Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at Hebrew College.  He is Professor Emeritus at Brandeis University, where he occupied the distinguished Philip W. Lown Professorship of Jewish Thought.  He is both a historian of Jewish religion and a theologian; his work seeks to form a bridge between these two distinct fields of endeavor.

Educated at Brandeis and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he received rabbinic ordination, Dr. Green studied with such important teachers as Alexander Altmann, Nahum N. Glatzer, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, of blessed memory.   He has taught Jewish mysticism, Hasidism, and theology to several generations of students at the University of Pennsylvania, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (where he served as both Dean and President), Brandeis, and now at Hebrew College.  He has taught and lectured widely throughout the Jewish community of North America as well as in Israel, where he visits frequently.  He was the founder of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1968 and remains a leading independent figure in the Jewish renewal movement.  He was the founding Dean of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School.

Dr. Green is the author of over a dozen books.  Best-known among his scholarly works are Tormented Master: A Life of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav and Keter: The Crown of God in Early Jewish Mysticism.  In Seek My Face, Speak My Name: A Contemporary Jewish Theology and EHYEH: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow he turns to the mystical tradition as a key source for a religious language that will speak to the many spiritual seekers in our generation.  Dr. Green is also well known for his translations and interpretations of Hasidic teachings, including The Language of Truth: Teachings from the Sefat Emet by Rabbi Judah Leib Alter of Ger.  One of his best-known works is Radical Judaism: Re-thinking God and Tradition, published by Yale University Press in 2010.  His most recent book is Hasidism for a New Era: The Religious Writings of Hillel Zeitlin (Paulist Press, 2012).

No charge.  Refreshments will be served.

R.s.v.p. to dan "at" kaplancenter dot org

Presented by The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

Friday, November 30, 2012

'Tis the Season...

--Eric Selinger

Well, technically it's not Purim yet, but I'm busy writing songs for the festivities, and yesterday's vote at the UN calls for one, surely.  Hit it, Buddy!

I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be:
You’re gonna dig my dignity.
Everything will be really great!
I’m a Non-Member Observer state.

Chances slimmer than a cigarette.
Don’t really have any borders yet.
Not much room to negotiate.
But soon I’ll issue a license plate
That says “Non-Member Observer State.”

Settlers rooted deep as palms.
Gaza’s popping with Qassams.
Tonight we’ll party like it’s ’48,
In a Non-Member Observer State,
In a Non-Member Observer State.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jews in Solitude

Woke up this morning with a line from Adrienne Rich in my head:  "What is a Jew in solitude?"

That's the opening line of her wonderful poem "Yom Kippur, 1984."  Haven't read it in years, but it haunts me.  To borrow a phrase from Molly Peacock, it's one of my talisman poems, although I hadn't really realized that until now.

I'm feeling "in solitude" now for any number of reasons, but they're personal, which means I'll write about them (if I do) over at In the Rain. Poetically speaking, what interests me here is the coincidence that followed an hour or two after breakfast.

Still thinking of Rich, I opened a package from the poet Benjamin Hollander:  a padded envelope containing two of his books, Vigilance and Rituals of Truce and the Other Israeli.  (I've never read him, but he contacted me out of the blue, and seems like an interesting guy.)  Opened the latter, and what did I read?  This, from Edmund Jabes:
I only know that, due to circumstance, solitude has become the profound destiny of the Jew.  The State of Israel not only doesn't break that solitude, it often aggravates it.   
            --From the Desert to the Book (tr. Pierre Joris)
Don't know much about "destiny," don't know much theology, don't know much about a holy book, don't know much about the Hebrew I took, but that last sentence?

It's the emess.  True dat, as they say.

Back to my Fortress of Solitude, folks.  More on the books as I read 'em.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Big Jewish Reboot

Like most blogs, the Big Jewish Blog had a life-cycle.  It started strong, it petered out, it got some new blood from new contributors, it petered out again, and for the last year or so, it's been more or less sincerely dead, as the Munchkins say.

This year, I'm giving it either a Big Jewish Reboot, or just a Big Jewish Boot.  We'll see.

I've written the "various hands" that I brought on board a few years back, and asked who wanted to continue contributing on a more or less regular basis, and I quietly culled the names of folks who haven't contributed in several years.  I'll continue to prune and add voices, and see what mix seems to work here, to get the job done, whatever that "job" may be.

(If I took you out, and you want back in, let me know.)

I'll be going through the links to your right and testing them to see what's still live and what's gone, daddy, gone.  Might even add some more, if the mood hits.

(If the mood hits, bear it.)

The other thing I've done, after much hemming and hawing--I do that a lot; it gets noisy 'round here--is start up yet another blog for my various religious misadventures:  the Alte Rockers Purim spiels, the angsty posts about synagogue membership, etc., the sermons and musings and so forth.

That blog is called "In the Rain," after a Stanley Moss poem I quite like.  If you want to see what I'm up to on that front, take a look.

My hope is that by separating the more personal Jewish (and non-Jewish) me into its own separate blog I'll be able to take a more curious, agile attitude towards the poems, poets, and poetics issues that will make up the Big Jewish Blog.  ("Poesis, not religion," as Rothenberg says in Exiled in the Word.)

If that doesn't happen, then it doesn't happen--now that I have my Promotion to Full (trumpet fanfare, please), what goes on here in the blogosphere is pretty well meaningless, professionally speaking, so I won't worry one way or the other.

The one question I have--and it's an open one, for now--is whether to turn off the comments here entirely, rather than leaving them on and moderating.  The comments you get on a Big Jewish Blog can be awfully upsetting, even when I delete or reject them:  political hate, religious venom, trolling of various kinds.

I just don't want that in my head, and I'm not sure that the potential for conversation here is worth the cost.

For now, I think I'd rather have the comments and conversations over at Facebook and Twitter and so forth than here.  If you don't like that idea, find me and let me know.  We'll see what we can do.

Wish me luck, and welcome back A Big Jewish Blog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Every year about this time, I stare at my synagogue dues sheet and wonder: should I stay or should I go?

On the "stay" side, I love the house bands I perform in: the house klezmer ensemble, Heavy Shtetl, and the house Purim parody band, the Alte Rockers. I love my cantor, who is the sweetest man imaginable, and I love my rabbi, whose position on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace makes me immensely proud.

If I leave, it might give aid and comfort to those at the congregation who oppose his political work, and I don't want that on my conscience.

On the "go"? Well, I'm not exactly drawn to the the weekly services: neither the bar / bat mitzvah oriented service in the main sanctuary nor the weekly minyan downstairs. Aesthetically, they can't compete with the masses at my wife's church, where people actually sing out with gusto and soul. And in order to make it to shul in time for either, I'd have to miss my Saturday Zumba class, where people dance with gusto and soul. Not going to happen, my friend.

(Of course, I could go to shul after I dance, but then I'd get there just in time for the Torah service--and frankly, the older I get, the less patience I have with the celebration and cerebration that surround that particular text. The earlier part of the service speaks to me; the Torah, not so much.)

So, what are my options? Find another shul, or a havurah? I have plenty of options, at least on a map--but realistically, between theology and politics and aesthetics, I don't know of any, and there's the whole "aid and comfort" thing. Go back to being a free-range (i.e., "unaffiliated") Jew? I'd feel awkward playing and singing at the shul after I'd left it, and those bands--and the friends I have in them--mean a lot to me. Join some other faith community? Believe me, I've thought of it. But what would be a better fit? And the other problems crop up here, too.

Cue The Clash. Sigh.