The Shalom Center: A Brief History, 1983 to 2008

The Shalom Center was founded in 1983 as a division of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, then a member of the RRC faculty, who became its director, and Ira Silverman, alav hashalom, then president of RRC.

Its original mission was to address the raging nuclear arms race from a Jewish perspective. It addressed this question as the danger of a planetary ecological disaster (the "Flood of Fire," in Jewish tradition) rather than an ordinary war-peace question.

Beginning in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the diminution of the nuclear arms race, The Shalom Center refocused on other planetary ecological dangers. Waskow developed both a theology and practice of eco-Judaism and wrote several books on those questions, while The Shalom Center went forward with these issues.

From 1978 on, Waskow's interests in tikkun olam had gone hand in hand with his work on spiritual/ liturgical / ceremonial concerns. The journal he founded, New Menorah, became the journal of the P'nai Or Religious Fellowship, and simultaneously, the concerns of P'nai Or for liturgical and spiritual creativity increasingly addressed tikkun olam.

In 1993, The Shalom Center merged with the P'nai Or Religious Fellowship to create ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, intending to unify the spiritual and tikkun-olam concerns.

In the late '90s, The Shalom Center began addressing issues of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking (which Rabbi Waskow as an individual had addressed since 1969). In 2002, with a US invasion of Iraq looming, The Shalom Center began investing a great portion of its energy in opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In September 2005, The Shalom Center became once again an independent 501c3 tax-exempt religious institution with its own board. (For a list of Board members, see elsewhere on this website.)

By its 25th anniversary in 2008, The Shalom Center's energies had crystallized around these concerns:

(1) Pursuing peace in the broadest Middle East from Afghanistan to Israel and Palestine, with special concern for ending US military attacks and occupations there and creating peaceful relationships among so-called "Western" states (majority Christian or Jewish) and so-called "Muslim" states or peoples (with Muslim majorities);

(2) Addressing the climate crisis of "global scorching" and working to end American addiction to over-use of oil and coal that poses extreme danger to the web of life, including human civilization, on Planet Earth;

(3) Creating deeper connections among American Jewish, Christian, and Muslim teachings and communities in Abrahamic mode, including interfaith efforts to define and encourage the use and marketing of "Sacred Foods"; peacemaking in the broader Middle East; working to prevent climate disaster; securing gay rights, especially in marriage and other sacred contexts; and defending immigrants' rights.

(4) Creating rituals, prayers,celebrations, and approaches to the learning of sacred texts that synthesize deep spiritual search with vigorous advocacy of justice, peace, and healing of the earth.

The present staff is made up of Rabbi Arthur Waskow as Rabbinic Director and Nick Alpers as Project Coordinator .