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Jewish Life is Waking Up

Premiering Wednesday, December 2 at 7:00pm PT

A new series of conversations with Rabbi Noa Kushner, The Kitchen, San Francisco, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Valley Beth Shalom, and the visionaries shaping Jewish life for the next generation.

Many times people come to rabbis with serious questions. But sometimes, rabbis go to one another.

This is one of those times.

Long before the pandemic, Jewish communal life was already in a state of change. Definitions of what held us together, of how we define ourselves were in a state of flux, debatable.

Now, with the pandemic, societal forces have accelerated, and possibilities that were once taboo (zoom Shabbat, anyone?) are on the table. Once again in our history, our understanding of what it means to be in a community, what it means to pray, not to mention how our prayers relate to the world around us and to whom we are supposed to pray, are ripe for reinterpretation.

One of us, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, is the rabbi of a large, long-standing and multi-generational synagogue in Los Angeles. The other, Rabbi Noa Kushner, is the rabbi of a young-ish, experimental community in San Francisco. We found we both had similar questions regarding the future of Jewish life: Who is God for this moment? Does the pandemic hold Jewish meaning? What are the communal responses? What is the Torah we might strive to articulate and uphold?

Not fully reaching the answers ourselves, we went to some of our rabbis. We invited a series of thinkers who we felt could begin to address aspects of these questions and to help us. We looked for people who were already on different edges of Jewish life and have much to say in this very moment: R. Yitz Greenberg just completed a work of theology articulating God’s role and ours in the world and Avivah Zornberg offers that Jewish texts reveal layers of ambivalence and trauma. We asked a world renowned Kabbalist (Melila Helner) what spirituality has to do with anything material, a well respected activist (R. Jill Jacobs) how she knows what to fight and when. We found artists, Israelis and Americans who would participate in our search for answers. We're making a collective effort to find out how Jewish life is waking up now, and importantly, how we might help it wake up.

Sometimes rabbis and teachers can repeat their stories (guilty as charged). We tried to find ways to really push our conversation forward, away from what sounds good and is already known, towards the less confident intersections of partially developed and even undeveloped thought. Our aim was not polish (read: one take) but rather the articulation of the beginning of ideas that feel new or newly true.

We may or may not have asked our friends and teachers to tell us their favorite jokes, but you’ll have to see us all in action to find out. We’ll just say here that we think laughter is going to be necessary in whatever comes next.

Learn more about Rabbi Noa Kushner >

Our Guests:

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer
President, Shalom Hartman Institute, North America

Rabbi Rollie Matalon
Bnai Jeshurun, New York

Prof Melilah Hellner-Eshed
Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Rabbi Tamar Elad-Applebaum
Zion, Jersusalem

Rabbi Benay Lappe
Svara, Chicago

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg
Hadar

Rabbi Amichai Lavie-Lau
LabShul, New York

Professor Ari Kelman
Stanford University, Palo Alto

Rabbi Jill Jacobs
T'ruah

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Sun, November 29 2020 13 Kislev 5781