Global Day of Jewish Learning author personalizes boundaries of Judaism

by | Oct 25, 2013 | What’s Happening

Sunday, Nov. 17, 1–3 pm

The Simon Family JCC will celebrate Jewish heritage through Jewish-based learning in conjunciton with 350 communities worldwide as part of the Global Day of Jewish Learning.

Conceived to mark the completion of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s historic Talmudic commentary on Nov. 7, 2010, the Global Day of Jewish Learning has reached all corners of the world, and brought Jews “across the spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds together in a day of study and unity,” says its website.

Jay Michaelson and a panel of area rabbis and cantors will lead what is sure to be a lively conversation about the boundaries of Judaism as part of the Lee and Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival at the Simon Family JCC. The event is presented in partnership with the Tidewater Board of Rabbis and Cantors.

One rabbi with whom Michaelson has maintained a long friendship is Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz of Temple Beth El. They attended Camp Ramah as teens and spent time together in Israel in the late 90s. As Michaelson began his career as a writer, the two kept in touch. Producing more than 200 articles on religion, sexuality, ethics, and contemplative practice, Michaelson has written prolifically in the past few years, including three full length books: God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality an bestseller and Lambda Literary Award finalist (which he presented at Ohef Sholom Temple last year); Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism, and his latest, Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment.

“He has a great way of taking complex ideas and conflicts, boiling them down, and then making them personal,” says Arnowitz.

The event will begin with an introduction by Arnowitz and then lead into a talk by Michaelson about his own spirituality. He will explain his personal exploration of the boundaries of Judaism through his lens, which he calls ‘ispirituality.’

“Jay Michaelson will weave his books together into a post-Modern Jewish tapestry,” says Arnowitz.

The multipurpose room at the JCC will be set with tables, with a rabbi or cantor at each table. After Michaelson speaks, he and Arnowitz will be available to participants at each table, who, with the clergymen as facilitatiors, will share personal journeys and discuss their perspective and challenges. “People should feel encouraged to bring doubting questions about what’s troubling them, so we can all talk about where there is a space in the Jewish Community,’’ says Michaelson.

“Don’t come to this Global Day with any preconceived notion,” says Arnowitz. “The afternoon is about how we draw boundaries and learn to feel comfortable with them. We live in a society whose boundaries are being challenged and reinterpreted. At the end of the day, we are all working towards building our Jewish community in innovative way, so it will grow and prosper.”

Other events taking place at the Global Day of Learning at the Simon Family JCC include Alan Gratz, presenting Prisoner B-3087, which is based on the astonishing true story of an extraordinary boy in Poland, tracing his journey through 10 different concentration camps and 10 different encounters with death. This presentation, in partnership with BBYO, is for children in grades six and up.

Also, the Children’s Creation Station will have stories, snacks, crafts, singing and more for children ages three years— fifth grade. Babysitting will be available for children six weeks through two years old by reservation only. For more information, call 757-321-2306.

The Simon Family JCC is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

by Leslie Shroyer