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 Jewish Renewal

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 Jewish Renewal - "Jewish Renewal" seems to refers to a two or three different different entities. One is a transdenominational movement lead by rabbis who undergo a regular course of study before ordination. The second is a distinct stream within Judaism that seems to emphasize radical politics, social activism and anti-Israel rhetoric, that is represented by Rabbis Michael Lerner and Arthur Waskow. They might represent a minority, but they are a very vocal one.

An acolyte of Jewish Renewal  writes:

I've heard Renewal described as "feminist neo-Hasidism," and there's some truth to that; we draw both on feminism's social and political shifts, and on the mystical, joyful passion of the Hasidic world. I've also heard Renewal described as "Jewish Unitarian Universalism," and there's some truth to that too; we espouse a post-triumphalist religious sensibility and an understanding that there are many paths to the one God. But neither of those descriptions conveys the whole flavor of what Renewal's trying to do.

"Jewish Renewal" may also refer to a philosophy that includes some or all of the elements preached by the Jewish Renewal movement, but does not adhere to a separate organization. The person cited above tells us:

Renewal is an attitude, not a denomination; adherents of Renewal come from all of the branches of Judaism.

This contradicts the definition of renewal as an organized entity. He continues:

Renewal places emphasis on direct spiritual experience, and values accessibility over insularity. We often make use of the prism of Jewish mysticism (kabbalah), especially the Four Worlds paradigm. We incorporate contemplative practices like meditation and chant, and our approach to liturgy and worship is joyful, creative, and participatory. Renewal is also characterized by tremendous respect for classical Jewish scholarship. We know we can't drive if we're only looking in the rear-view mirror, but neither can we move forward if we don't know where we've been.

Jewish Renewal brings kabbalistic and Hasidic theory and practices into an egalitarian framework, that is usually non-orthodox. Like Hasidic Jews, Renewal Jews often add to traditional worship ecstatic practices such as meditation, chant and dance. Some renewal adherents borrow freely and openly from Buddhism, Sufism, Unitarianism and other faiths.

The Jewish Renewal movement has also been described as an informal network of individuals (including rabbis), synagogues and havurot many of which have formal affiliations with ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal). ALEPH maintains a formal ordination program for rabbis.

A Havura is an informal "congregation:" A small group of like-minded Jews who assemble for the prayers, observances, sharing communal experiences such as lifecycle events, and Jewish learning. Havurot were first formed in the 1960s. Some were originally full-fledged communes.

Many of these groups are guided by the philosophies and practices of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Schachter-Shalomi, a Hasidic-trained rabbi ordained in the Lubavitch movement, broke with Orthodox Judaism in the 1960s, and founded his own organization, The B'nai Or Religious Fellowship, which he described in an article entitled "Toward an Order of B'nai Or."

Jewish Renewal also includes Rabbis Lerner and Waskow who apparently never underwent institutional ordination and hold to a separate and very radical view of Judaism not acceptable to Orthodox Judaism.

Ami Isseroff

February 21, 2011

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Judaism, Conservative JudaismOrthodox Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, Humanistic Judaism

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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