Favorite Places, People and Organizations
There are lots of places, people and organizations that are helping to create and recreate joyful Judaism. Here are some of my favorites:
Temple Sinai in Cranston, Rhode Island, is the congregation I serve as rabbi. Temple Sinai is a Reform synagogue dedicated to furthering Jewish life through worship, study and community. Temple Sinai is an extended family to members of the congregation, and provides a respectful and welcoming spiritual home for a diverse membership.Temple Sinai is committed to Torah, Israel and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). The congregation strives to honor these values in the the lives of its members and to pass them from generation to generation. May we be blessed to go from strength to strength!
I served Temple Beit HaYam in Stuart, Florida, from 2011 to 2014. The congregation is a family of families connected by a noble history and an inspiring value system with Jews on Florida's Treasure Coast and throughout the world. The congregation is committed to Torah (life-long Jewish education), avodah (worship through prayer and observance) and gemilut chasadim (the pursuit of justice, peace and deeds of loving kindness).
I served Congregation Beth Israel of North Adams, Massachusetts, from 2000 to 2011. It is a small Reform congregation, nestled in the beautiful mountains of northern Berkshire County. CBI is a community where people celebrate Jewish Heritage, study and practice our tradition, and search for spiritual meaning. The congregation has a rich history and is inspired by many expressions of Judaism—from the traditional to the innovative. All are welcome, Jewish families and interfaith families, gay and straight, singles and non-traditional families.
I have been a participant in the retreats of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality since 2002. IJS was founded in response to the yearning of countless Jews—rabbis, cantors, educators and lay people alike—to find a deeper, more meaningful connection with the Spirit of the universe, with God. IJS offers retreat programs that use meditation, yoga, text study, chant and other disciplines to develop a new generation of Jewish leaders steeped in contemplative Judaism that enriches the inner lives of Jews, revitalizes the Jewish wisdom tradition, opens Jewish institutions to new forms of liturgical and ritual expression, and links the search for inner wholeness with social and environmental activism.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat is a poet and the writer of the Velveteen Rabbi blog. She is also the author of the collection 70 Faces: Torah Poems. She is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, Massachusetts, the congregation I served from 2000 to 2011. She developed a prayerbook for the High Holy Days we created into the marvelous machzor, Days of Awe.
Mayyim Hayyim is a mikveh center (and so much more) in Newton, Massachusetts. I have used their facility for conversions and other ritual moments that call for immersion. Mayyim Hayyim is intimate, spiritual, focused on learning, celebration and community. In other words, it is exactly what a joyful center of Jewish living should be. It has been called an international model of Jewish creativity and vitality.
Here's a confession: I was a theater major in college and I have always felt attracted to the aspect of theater which is an extension of the human instinct for story telling. Storahtelling is an organization that is founded on the idea that the Torah service is, in its essence, a dramatic recreation of the moment of revelation. They do it beautifully. They specialize in performances and trainings that revive the Torah Service and breathe new, joyful life into it. Over the past ten years, Storahtelling has provided programming for more than 1,000 synagogues and organizations, reaching more than 100,000 people worldwide.