Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1958, I spent my formative years (9 – 17) in New Jersey. Our synagogue in Englishtown, NJ was (and still is) affiliated with the Traditional movement, which is a small egalitarian modern Orthodox movement. However, I walked away from Judaism at age 15 and did not return until age 23. During my first crisis in identity, I engaged in a spiritual journey that focused on all traditions and was drawn to Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism.
Around the age of 30, I discovered Reform Judaism and Kabbalah and found my way back home. I now consider myself a non-denominational, “Universal” Jew, drawing from all Progressive Jewish movements, as well as other faith traditions, but with a “non-dual” panentheist relationship with the Divine (e.g., there is no separation between the Divine and Humankind, yet there also is an Infinite Source of All). While the Source of Creation is the Ein Sof (Without End, Infinite One), the Divine spark is within all of us, filling every molecule in our bodies, as I believe we are ALL Divine emanations (Adonai Echad / Adonai is One). When the Torah says, “Be Holy, because I am Holy,” it is because we are One.
Judaism is reinventing itself. A new paradigm is evolving, one that is moving away from rote prayer to one that provides opportunities for “sacred experience”, through contemplative prayer, music, chanting, meditation and nature settings. While Judaism will always be sourced in Torah, history and a Peoplehood, traditions and rituals must be inspiring and meaningful if they are to survive in the new paradigm. The focus on acts of lovingkindness (gemilut Chassadim – repairing a broken world) will always be a foundational principle of Judaism, within one’s Self, one’s community and the entire world.