~ by Rabbi Marcia Prager who is Director and Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Programs and rabbi of the P'nai Or Jewish Renewal communities of Philadelphia PA, and and Princeton NJ. She is the author of The Path of Blessing and the P'nai Or Siddurim for Shabbat. Her work as a teacher of Jewish spiritual practice includes developing and co-directing the Davvenen Leadership Training Institute at Elat Chayyim, and teaching widely in Jewish and interfaith settings.
I learned about Faith House recently at the Innovation Conference in Ohio. After I introduced the Jewish Renewal movement to a largely Christian audience and led them in experiencing the dynamics of Jewish spirituality, Samir closed our meeting with a prayer and a sweet poem from a Palestinian poet, Naomi Shihab Nye. For those few moments, the whole family of Abraham became one. Later, during a conversation with Samir, I felt a clear resonance with the Faith House project in Manhattan. I believe it will give fresh hope to our largely polarized Abrahamic family as it slowly unfolds along with other renewal movements. This is my report on what is happening on the Jewish side of these developments. I invite you who are Christians and Muslims that are seeking renewal in your own faiths to teach the rest of us about God’s renewing presence in your midst.
Jewish Renewal is the ongoing creative project of a generation of Jews who are seeking to renew Judaism and bring its spiritual and ethical vitality into our lives and communities, and at the same time embrace a global vision of the role of all human beings and spiritual paths in the transformation of life on this precious planet.
Jewish Renewal is dedicated to revealing Judaism's inner spirit and nurturing our spiritual lives. In Jewish renewal we draw significant inspiration from the legacy of Jewish mystical and Hassidic traditions, which is expressed in the cultivation of traditional practices such as meditation, chanting, and davvenen' [the uniquely Jewish prayer practice that blends light body- movement, modal chant and sacred text] and the study of traditional Kabbalistic and Hasidic sources to enhance both individual and communal practice.
Jewish Renewal as a movement seeks to transform and renew the kavvanah (spiritual intention) with which we practice a revitalized and joyous Judaism.
Jewish Renewal is a phenomenon, not a denomination. It resembles Reform Judaism in some ways, Reconstructionism in other ways, and even Orthodoxy – especially Hasidism – in some important ways. But it is not a formal denomination with an organized hierarchy or structure. Jewish Renewal is a "movement" in the sense of a wave in motion, a grassroots effort to discover and re-discover the modern meaning of Judaism as a profound, self and world-transformative spiritual practice.
Jewish-renewalists see "renewal" as a process reaching beyond denominational boundaries and institutional structures, more similar to the multi-centered civil-rights or women's movements than to contemporary denominations. This renewal process is happening in Jewish music, liturgy, midrash, education, politics . . . and in all kinds of synagogues as well as havurot (smaller, less formal constellations of Jewish community), and even in secular settings.
Jewish Renewal sees itself as transdenominational, a movement that transcends the boundaries of the various Jewish denominations. Its membership includes people who are active in the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox worlds as well as many others whose only religious/spiritual affiliation is Renewal.
In a deep way, Jewish Renewal is built on the idea that we live in a
transformative moment in time, in which a new paradigm for spiritual life is being
. . .
Exciting? Learn much more about Jewish Renewal next week in (Part 2)