By Rabbi Arthur Waskow 04/02/2003
The movement for "Jewish renewal" has both learned from and created a number of books that The Shalom Center will make available through its Website.with a special interest in tikkun olam (healing the world).
The Jewish-renewal current of thought and action originated in the intertwining of four strands of Jewish rethinking in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by two approaches that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. This essay will frame a number of the books in these patterns, and then suggest some other categories for seeking nourishment in thought about Jewish renewal.
Follow the arrows to see each subsection:
(a) the neo-Hassidism of Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Shlomo Carlebach, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.
(b) the emergence of havurot and similar forms of Jewish community -- hands-on, participatory, intimate, and deeply engaged in the progressive political energies of the period from 1967 to 1975;
(c) the emergence not only of a movement for equality of women and men in existing Jewish life but more deeply for their equality in shaping what Judaism is to become, including the insights of feminist Judaism.
(d) to a much lesser extent, the impact of some Reconstructionist and what might be called "secular-spiritual" ideas. Especially notable:
(e) the insights of a spiritually-rooted caring for the endangered web of life on this planet, leading to a conscious eco-Judaism.
(f) the knowledge and practice of forms of meditation used in Eastern spiritual traditions, and the rediscovery of meditative traditions in Judaism.
At the heart of Jewish renewal and of many newer approaches to tikkun olam is an understanding of Jewish history as a series of encounters with God, once again renewed in our generation after the crisis of the Holocaust and the seeming triumph of Modernity in both its creative and destructive aspects.
(g) For that reason, there have been serious efforts to rethink the nature and content of prayer so as to infuse it with tikkun olam as understood in our generation:
(h) New energy has been brought to the study of Torah both through new translations of Biblical, Rabbinic, Kabbalistic, and Hassidic texts and in new midrashic approaches.
(i) Jewish renewal has begun to work out what it might mean in our generation to fill the everyday -- food, money, work, health, politics, sex, family life -- with holiness:
(j) Several books use biography and history to describe and express the movement:
* Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center; a Pathfinder of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal; and the editor of ALEPH's journal New Menorah.