Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Re-Jew-Venation - Thoughts by Lisa Braun Glazer of Waters of Eden San Diego

Dear Jewish Community,

Having just returned from Eastern Europe, what I witnessed completely surprised me: Jews are alive and well in places like Berlin, Krakow and Warsaw and are actually "re-Jew-venating" them. Jews are now coming out of the shadows and are eager to learn about Jewish culture, holidays, and customs. Certainly not what I expected! What I saw was not an attempt at recreating the past but rather sincere and enthusiastic efforts to create something new and authentically Jewish but also clearly embedded in those ambient cultures. This is definitely not a return to 'what was' but something entirely new, and the goal is not to return to the way things were but a response to modernity and to people's desire to connect to their roots and to each other. 

Mommy & Me program, Berlin JCC

Let's face it - we have lost untold millions over the centuries through anti-Semitic persecution and mass extermination. The pain we feel for the victims and their never-to-be-born progeny when we are in these memory-laden places cannot ever bring them back, nor can it reconstitute their ashes. But what is clear is that there is a rich Jewish presence and history of 1000 years in both Germany and Poland and we must not only allow but need to encourage the evolution of Jewish ritual and practice so that there will be a future. In fact, this has been our hallmark over time, and I would contend, the reason that we Jews have continued to survive and thrive over the centuries. Our response to and integration of aspects of the surrounding culture and the blending together with our own rich Jewish wisdom often underpin the most exciting and compelling new trends. For example, it is no accident that the ordination of women rabbis finally occurred 40 years ago because of the women's rights movement in the US.  Even in this brief period, women have literally added so much to our collective Jewish voice in music, Torah interpretation, ritual, and prayer. There can be no turning back the clock.

It thrilled me to see sprouts of new Jewish communal life. I loved meeting young people and their elders who are choosing to embrace their Jewish heritage, forging new Jewish paths in Germany and Poland. They are encouraged by their countries' acknowledgment of past atrocities and highly visible efforts to restore synagogues, promote festivals of Jewish culture, and support of the building of monuments, memorials, and museums highlighting Jewish contributions to their cultures; it's even becoming fashionable to have Jewish roots! This synergy is producing something new and exciting yet inextricably connected to our history. 


Museum of the History of Polish Jews - opened May, 2013 

I emphatically believe that we in the North American diaspora must continue to evolve as well, even as we maintain a connection to our roots. New interpretations of ancient rituals like mikvah are essential to the renewal and rejuvenation of contemporary Jewish life. The essence of Waters of Eden is to build new connections thus invigorating pluralistic Jewish life in our community and inspiring such aspirations everywhere.

 -Lisa Braun Glazer, Ph.D.

 Check out this Waters of Eden video:

Rabbi Lenore Bohm's Splash Speech

Rabbi Lenore  Bohm's Splash! Speech


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