Every Jew is a Jew by choice”
Almost every seat in the UMC’s Glenn Miller Ballroom on CU’s campus was filled for the Scholars’ Roundtable and Celebration of the Reb Zalman Archives. The audience contained cheering Jewish Renewal members, scholars and other community members.
The Jewish Renewal movement attempts to reinvigorate what it views as an uninspired Judaism with mystical, musical and meditative practices. It draws from traditional and non-traditional Judaism. It is often described as a feminist movement. Though it is controversial, it has a strong Boulder following.
The lecture opened with a non-traditional Mincha (afternoon) service. The service was full of enthusiastic singers, as well as cheers. Following the service, David Friedman and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone spoke.
The Glenn Miller Ballroom has never rocked quite in that way,” Firestone said, following the service. “Many of you know how prolific our Rebbe is.”
The two then spoke about the Yesod Foundation, which they said was inspired by Reb Zalman. According to Yesod’s website, its mission is to “bring the deep wisdom of the Jewish tradition to contemporary culture.” Yesod does this by providing local and regional educational and community-building programs, creating an international conference of Renewal educators and by establishing and supporting the Reb Zalman Legacy project, which aims to preserve Reb Zalman’s life for future generations.
Following Friedman and Firestone’s speech, CU-Boulder Head of Archives Bruce Montgomery said, “Our job is to preserve recorded history.” He also requested donations to make sure that the preservation continues.
David Shneer, director of the Jewish Studies program at CU-Boulder and an associate professor of history, spoke next, introducing Reb Zalman. Shneer said that Reb Zalman graduated from Chabad and created what would be known as the Jewish Renewal movement. He described the movement as controversial, and Reb Zalman as inspiring.
Reb Zalman spoke next, describing how he came to develop what became a movement and how he moved from being a Chabad rabbi to starting a new movement. He described the movement through the ages. He said that “every Jew is a Jew by choice,” and he explained the movement’s shift toward feminism to include the foremothers as well as the forefathers.
Professor Chava Weissler, who is completing a book on Renewal Judaism then offered her academic and personal insight on the movement.
Following Weissler, Rabbi Or Rose, a scholar and teacher who was raised in the movement, came next and opened his speech with a song.
Audience members danced around and could not stay in their seats throughout the entire event.
For additional Week of Jewish Culture events, click here: CU’s Week of Jewish Culture
Photos, by Sara Fruman for the Boulder Jewish News: