You Shall Pursue

September 6, 2012

Shabbat in the Wilderness

Filed under: Rabbinical School, Spirituality — marleyweiner @ 1:19 am

Orientation this year kicked off with a two day retreat at Camp JRF, the Reconstructionist Movement’s overnight camp in the Poconos. It felt like MUCH longer. I came in not yet having met all of my future classmates, now I feel like I am at the beginning of a bunch of beautiful new friendships.

We started the event with team-building exercises, which are silly and fun and forced us to talk to each other. I may or may not be shamlessly stealing most of them for use with my future students and programs.

I have had, let’s say, an interesting relationship with Jewish community since I became a part of it. On the one hand, coming from a family that is secular Jews on one side and non-Jews on the other, I crave groups of like-minded co-religionists (super Reform terms FTW!). On the other hand, I tend to get picky and critical about the Jewish community in its execution, especially for young Jews in their 20s and 30s and the emphasis on low-barrier programming that will lead to intra-religious marriages. It has been challenging for me to find a Jewish community that will engage my mind and encourage the sort of religious practice that I am looking for that is simultaneously nurturing to my fragile, not always cohesive sense of self-identification. I have found bits and pieces of that at KZ, as well as at Columbia Hillel, but it’s never been a perfect fit.

Davening Kabbalat Shabbat at Camp JRF was a profound moment of homecoming for me. Many of my fellow future rabbis have similar uneasy relationships with Jewish community, the rabbinate, and finding their authentic sense of Jewish self. Ironically, it is in our non-normative status that I think so many of our strengths lie. And there is something profoundly burden-lifting about being able to talk about simultaneous fierce love and deep critique of Judaism and have my classmates get more or less where I am coming from. At this retreat, we spent a lot of time processing; talking about our relationships to ritual, community, Shabbat, and any number of other things, and it is a breath of fresh air to be with other people who are so thoughtful and enthusiastic about their evolving Jewish practice.

I also did yoga and went on a silent nature walk which one of my classmates created as the result of doing similar nature walks as a child at a Quaker summer camp. I love the blending of different faith traditions to create a more robust, grounded, and spiritual Judaism. Part of this next year is going to be self-care; making sure that I remain grounded, peaceful, and secure in my faith while everything changes around me. This is a year of new beginnings: I started classes again as a grad student today, I’m in the classroom teaching for the first time in years. It’s tremendously exciting, and kicking the year off with a moment of spiritual wholeness will, I hope, make all the difference.

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