To see the Burning Bush in more of its radiant intensity, click on the graphic; it will expand. The cover art for Freedom Journeys is by Michael Bogdanow.)
Can we create a Judaism to help Transform the world?
Can we spend 4 days of Joy together doing that?
Are you an activist rooted in Jewish spirituality but often lonely in the work of growing those roots into a Transformative Judaism —- committed to effective and transformative political activism infused with the Spirit?
Would you find it a mechayeh — life-giving! — to join with others like you to learn, dance, meditate, heal, plan, sing, listen, speak out, and take political action that has integrity — no watering down our commitments! All of this focused on shaping a Judaism that sees its central purpose in our generation as joining with other spiritual and ethical communities to heal our wounded world?
Then save the dates from Wednesday July 18 to Sunday July 22 to gather at a joyful retreat center, Stony Point, just an hour from New York City.
As I am writing, this very week, the traditional Torah reading is about the first wave of Transformative Judaism. At the Burning Bush, Moses hears God call for a transformation in the political system of the most powerful empire on Earth — Egypt. (In Hebrew its name is Mitzrayyim, “Tight and Narrow Place.”)
And God’s very Name is transformed. The Name of old, El Shaddai, the Breasted God, the God of Nourishment and Nurture, is no longer adequate. God’s Name becomes Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming,” and God’s nickname is “YHWH,” the Interbreathing of all life. Only if our most profound understanding of the universe changes, can we ourselves change enough to make the Pharaoh fall.
It is because Moses, Aaron, and Miriam understand the meanings of these Names and teach these meanings to the people that they understand the Plagues as inevitable consequences of Pharaoh’s tyranny. When the Plagues erupt, Pharaoh is frightened but thinks it’s all an accident: “Stuff happens.” But the insurgents know that all life is interwoven, and that oppressing workers, even or especially immigrants, will bring upheavals of the Earth itself.
So they learned to pray through action, in tune with an ever-growing God of all life intertwined.
Such crises in world history and in our understanding of the universe have come again and again. We are in the midst of that kind of earthquake now, and our understanding of God — “God’s Name” — must change if we are to renew justice, freedom and the web of life on Earth. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said about marching for racial equality alongside Dr. King, we must pray with our legs as well as our mouths and hearts.
For Jews, that means creating a Transformative Judaism ready to work with other spiritual and ethical communities to transform and heal the world.
If that is your commitment and your practice, then Stony Point is where you belong in July.
The seeds have been planted – now YOU can help them sprout. Several weeks ago, Jews of varied colors, generations, genders, orientations, and organizations gathered to think, sing, share, and plan.
They worked out a basic plan for the July gathering, and an early draft of a Values statement as a centering shofar-blast for the gathering. The Values statement appears, for now, on this page of the Shalom Center website and will appear on the websites of other sponsoring organizations. The Network for Transformative Judaism will soon have a website of its own.
They also named a coordinating committee to further refine the Values statement and to make real the plans for a gathering. (For now, members of the coordinating committee are Arlene Goldbard, Cherie Brown, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Kohenet Holly Taya Shere, Sabrina Sojourner, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow. Others will be joining.)
The Values statement remains a “draft” because we expect it to change as we keep learning from each other, from emerging history, and from the Spirit.
Already The Shalom Center, Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, Jewish Currents, Am Kolel of Greater Washington, the Awakened Heart Project, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun, and the National Coalition-Building Institute have become sponsors, and others have indicated they are likely to join in. If your organization is interested, write us here: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the July gathering: We will send you details about cost, time, forms of learning old and new, etc. For now, if the Statement of Values speaks to your mind, heart, body, and soul, please let us know –— and share this letter with others of the same bent.
Blessed be those who come together to heal and transform the world! —— Arthur