Stories by Rabbis Spratt and Stanton surrounding the book, Awakenings: American Jewish Transformations in Identity, Leadership, and Belonging.
Inspired, nimble religious organizations of all kinds are now retooling to meet the very different needs of American Judaism today. Zioness is a key example of this trend, in creating space for people who are ideologically progressive and hold their Zionism as an intrinsic and inseparable piece of their Jewish identities. Rabbis Joshua Stanton and Benjamin Spratt profiled Zioness in their new book, “Awakenings: American Jewish Transformations in Identity, Leadership, and Belonging” and will join in Dialogue with Amanda Berman, Founding Executive Director of Zioness. They will discuss best practices evident in Zioness — and broader trends that we see within the early stages of renewal in both Jewish life and in religious life outside Judaism.
Our numbers are growing, American Jews burst with pride of identity – and yet many of our institutions remain in decline. This combination of circumstances is creating space for those once marginalized to come to the center with visionary approaches to Jewish life and belonging.
A Message from our Clergy – August 10, 2022
As we approach Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comfort and Consolation, we turn our hearts towards Israel. Following the IDF arresting a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad, Islamic Jihad in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets towards Israel. The IDF responded with targeted attacks against militants and rocket installations. Hundreds were wounded, and dozens were killed.
We offer gratitude for the continued ceasefire that now allows healing, aid, and comfort to be given. From the fear and heartbreak now felt by so many in Israel and Gaza, may the days ahead move us through consolation and into resolution.
For resources to engage in further learning and action, please visit our Israel page.
Springtide Research Institute’s Head of Community Engagement Marte Aboagye was joined by Rabbi Joshua Stanton and Rabbi Benjamin Spratt: co-authors of the just released book, “Awakenings: American Jewish Transformations in Identity, Leadership, and Belonging.”
Together they discussed trends in religious organizations, with a focus on American Jewish life, narrowing in on what we’re seeing specifically with Gen Z. Springtide’s research from “The State of Religion & Young People 2022: Navigating Uncertainty” as well as fresh findings from our soon-to-release report “The State of Religion & Young People 2023: Mental Health” were referenced as well.
In “Awakenings,” Rabbis Stanton and Spratt answer, “Why are religious organizations on the decline? What changes have caused many of them to lose touch with modern spiritual needs? What does it take to remain relevant in today’s world” They argue, “In every corner of our community, Jewish identity, wisdom, ritual, and power are being remixed and reimagined. As centralized authority declines, American Judaism moves and grows in a multitude of directions. As technology reduces the importance of geographic boundaries, new opportunities for connection and new modes of exercising power emerge. New mixtures of ancient Jewish practice and modern needs are beginning to shape the renewal of American Judaism, widening access to Jewish wisdom and ritual, transforming Jewish consumers into Jewish co-creators, and building new networks of Jewish belonging.”
Join the authors of Awakenings: American Jewish Transformations in Identity, Leadership, and Belonging (https://www.amazon.com/Awakenings-Ame…, Rabbis Joshua Stanton and Benjamin Spratt, and Executive Director Wendy Goldberg as they dive into critical questions facing religion today. Their book explores facets of American Jewish life–and of American religious life in general–and discusses both disruption and great prospects for renewal, transformation, co-creation, and building new networks of belonging.
If you are curious what keeps religious organizations mired in the past and seek to understand a new path to unify the American Diaspora as well as other religious communities, this session will provide some interesting insights.
The role of rabbis is not the same as it was in America a century ago. Our institutions should not look the same either. Now is the time for them to begin anew in dreaming what they could become.
Written by Rabbi Benjamin H. Spratt
RodNational Refugee Shabbat – March 4, 2022
Written by Rabbi Benjamin H. Spratt
Responding to the Crisis in Ukraine
As we look with horror and fear at the invasion of Ukraine, we bring awareness to this escalating conflict on the most personal level. Within our congregation, many hold family stories that trace through Ukraine, the Pale of Settlement region, and Western Russia. We have members of Ukrainian, Belarusian, Yugoslavian, and Russian identity, and some of our members have friends and family in a region that may rapidly become the center of all-out war. As a Jewish community of belonging, these first moments of invasion connect to powerful tropes in many homes and hearts. For anyone in our congregation struggling and in need of support, please know your clergy are here to give care and space and be with you.
From half a world away, it may be difficult to see an appropriate response, and so we may fall into fear and anxiety. In the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Ukraine: “a person should not fall into despair on account of the many destructions and harms…instead, if you believe it is possible to destroy, then also believe it is possible to repair.”
We reached out to our neighbors at the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodymyr on 82nd Street, and to Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch, the Chief Rabbi of Kiev, to extend our support and solidarity at this time of terror.
We pray for a speedy end to this invasion and violence, and we pray for the safety of civilians and the restoration of security. May we witness a world rising to stand together.
ReformJudaism.org: Responding to the Crisis in Ukraine
Ways to Give
• Odessa Peace Fund: Established by CRS members Vlad Portnoy z”l and Irina Sheynfeld, both from Ukraine, the Odessa Peace Fund sends much-needed resources to Ukraine. Through the Goodnation Foundation, 100% of donations provide care to seniors, orphans, disabled people, and their pets.
• World Union for Progressive Judaism Ukraine Crisis Fund.
• UJA Federation New York Ukraine Crisis Response Fund
• United Hatzalah Ukraine Relief Fund
• Project Kesher Donate to support Ukranian Women
• Ruth’s Refuge provides furniture and home essentials to Ukrainian refugees rebuilding their lives in NYC.
• Ukrainian Orthodox Church at 160 West 82nd St., NY, NY 10024.
• Read the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s denouncing of Russia’s invasion here.
• American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Resources & Action Steps
Families with Young Children
• How to Talk with Your Children About Conflict and War (Unicef)
• How to Support the Kids We Love When the News Gets Really Scary (Tinkergarten)
• How to Talk To Your Kids and Teens About Ukraine and Russia (New York Times)
by Rabbi Ben Spratt, Senior Rabbi
As we turn tonight to Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of turning and returning, we hold these days of awe for reflection. This year, Shabbat Shuvah beckons us to remembrance as well, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of September 11th. Tomorrow marks the 20 years since the most lethal attack on American soil in our country’s history. We mourn the 2,977 people killed when terrorists used four commercial planes to bring death to New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
My first worship experience at Congregation Rodeph Sholom was with a congregation weeping and afraid, gathering to face the horrors wrought on our City. Never before had I experienced such necessity of community, nor the solidarity and purpose we would forge together. For many of us, it was our first personal experience with evil, the skies scorched in smoke and shadow, a skyline forever altered, so many lives and families shattered.
I will forever remember sitting with the teens of our congregation, robbed of an innocence and forced into grief. I will forever remember our own community members whose lives were taken. And I will forever remember the love, the courage, and hope that we created together.
In our Torah, as Jacob wrestles with the angel, he turns to the angel and asks, “Tell me, what is your name?” Our sages of old, however, imagine this was not an angelic being of goodness, but perhaps instead a malevolence seeking to eradicate the very foundations of Jacob’s being. They imagine this bearer of destruction replying, “You want to know my name. Do you not know that evil has no fixed name? Our names always change in accordance with the times.”
Over these two decades, we learned that evil exists in this world, known by many names. 800,000 American service members served in Afghanistan since October 2001, nearly 3,000 of whom died trying to root out evil halfway across the globe. Even as we sit in the complicated legacy of the war against terror and in the controversy of our current withdrawal, we honor those who fought against evil and sought to protect our democracy. And we celebrate the firefighters, the police officers, and the emergency medical professionals who risked, and gave their lives here in New York City in the face of this evil.
And over these same years we have learned that the name of evil lurks domestically as well. We see within our own country the forces that would justify the harming of innocent lives for the sake of upending our democracy. We see incivility, damning division, and intolerance taking root. We witness an unwillingness to see change as both necessary and inevitable. For all the solidarity and unity that many felt following September 11, 2001, 20 years later we see how much work remains to bring our nation together.
Returning to Genesis, as daybreak arrives, Jacob is given a new name: Israel – one who wrestles with things both divine and human. One who sees a world of both evil and goodness, and chooses to engage. One who grapples with a world of complexity and reaches towards a better day. Limping from the injuries of the attack, amidst the remaining rubble at his feet, Jacob consecrates the place of his struggle. It would become a reminder, for him and for all generations, both of the danger faced, and the resilience raised.
Hannah Arendt wisely stated, “Action without a name, a who attached to it, is meaningless.” In our remembrance of September 11th, we claim our own name, a name that calls us to action, a name that knits our own belonging into a larger story of nation and globe. As Rodeph Sholom, we claim our mantle as pursuers of peace and wellbeing, for ourselves and for all. We remember all that has been lost, and in the same breath reach with purpose. We honor the dead by speaking their names, and infusing their legacies into our own lives. We raise our eyes to a skyline forever changed, yet still rising with new signs of possibility. We make hope our most precious responsibility.
Join us tonight, Friday September 10, for Erev Shabbat Services at 6:00 PM as we remember, mourn, pray, and hope together. You can register to join us in-person or stream online through our website or Facebook page. We will be joined by firefighters from Ladder 3 and Ladder 74 to help honor the heroism and sacrifice of so many twenty years ago. In worship and commemoration, we will mourn the losses within our own congregation and across our country. On this Shabbat Shuvah, we recount these 20 years even as we turn to shape a new year and new chapter together.
SHABBAT SHUVAH | Marking the 20th anniversary of September 11