An Evening of Conversation with Rabbi Art Green

On Tuesday evening November 10, 2020, Rabbi Josh Feigelson, PhD, IJS Executive Director, interviewed Rabbi Dr. Art Green at a live public event sponsored by IJS, to an audience of more than 500 people. This is a full recording of their conversation.

Art Green is one of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s founding teachers. He is also the founding dean and current director of the Rabbinical School and Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at Hebrew College, as well as Professor Emeritus at Brandeis University. He is both a historian of Jewish religion and a theologian; his work seeks to form a bridge between these two distinct fields of endeavor.

Educated at Brandeis University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he received rabbinic ordination, Art studied with such important teachers as Alexander Altmann, Nahum Glatzer, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, of blessed memory. He has taught Jewish mysticism, Hasidism, and theology to generations of students at the University of Pennsylvania, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (where he served as both Dean and President), Brandeis, and now at Hebrew College. He was the founder of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1968 and remains a leading independent figure in the Jewish Renewal movement.

Art is author, editor, and translator of more than twenty books. Among his scholarly works are Tormented Master: A Life of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav and Keter: The Crown of God in Early Jewish Mysticism. Art is also well known for his translations and interpretations of Hasidic teachings, including: Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from Around the Maggid’s Table (2013). Among his most recent works are the two-volume A New Hasidim (JPS, 2019), co-edited with Ariel Evan Mayse and a complete translation of the Hasidic classic The Light of the Eyes (Stanford, 2020).

Art’s most recent book is Judaism for the World: Reflections on God, Life, and Love (Yale, 2020).

A Major New Partnership Between IJS and Or HaLev

The Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS) and Or HaLev Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation (OHL) announced today a major new partnership to develop the next generation of advanced Jewish mindfulness meditation teachers in North America, Israel, and the United Kingdom. The initiative will be led by Or HaLev Founder and Executive Director Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels and jointly developed and staffed by both organizations. It is planned to launch with a two-year cohort of fellows in the fall of 2021.

“Excited does not begin to describe how we feel about this partnership,” said Rabbi Josh Feigelson, Executive Director of IJS. “After two decades of pioneering the field of Jewish spiritual practice, we at IJS see not only an explosion in interest in Jewish mindfulness meditation, but the emergence of a field. The heart of that field is the development of master teachers for a new generation. And there is no better person in the world to lead this project than James. This is a landmark development.”

The new program is intended to help professional teachers of Jewish mindfulness practice, and Jewish professionals who incorporate mindfulness in their teaching, to become master teachers. “So many outstanding teachers now are leading Jewish meditation sits and teaching Jewish mindfulness practices,” says Jacobson-Maisels. “Now is the time to invest in developing the next generation of master teachers who can lead retreats, develop new Torah, and diversify the voices and perspectives of the field. Partnering with IJS, and their superb staff and faculty, is the perfect way to do this.”

The partnership brings IJS’s North America-focused work into dialogue with developments in Jewish spiritual life in Israel, where Or HaLev is based, and in the UK, where it has a substantial presence. “Even before the pandemic, Jewish spiritual practice was a rapidly expanding field” says IJS Chief Program Officer Michal Fox Smart. “Recent events have only accelerated that. This partnership between IJS and Or HaLev will help Jews all over the world now and for years to come.”

Jacobson-Maisels has served as Rosh Yeshiva of the Romemu Yeshiva in Manhattan and has taught at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and Hadar. As part of the new agreement, he will also become a visiting member of the IJS faculty and teach in IJS programs. Feigelson and Jacobson-Maisels both view the partnership as an initial step in what they hope is a deepening relationship between the organizations.

Mindfulness Practice for Election Night

I remember election night 2016, which coincided with an IJS meditation teacher training
retreat. At first glance, it might seem dissonant to bring an election with all of its
emotion, spin, and hype into the retreat experience. However, at the Institute we have
the conviction that if our practice is going to be real it must be accessible and operative
in real life–no matter what the circumstances.

We sat at Brandeis Bardin, and watched the PBS coverage of the election. Every 20
minutes or so I rang a bell, we muted and covered the projection, and just sat together
for a few minutes. It was quite surreal and challenging to be in that strong container of
practice while also watching the election coverage. We all felt an intensity of emotion
that evening, compounded by the long hours of meditation leading up to election night.

However, as I’ve understood upon reflection, it was importantly and truly in the spirit of
our practice. It would have been easier and in many ways preferable to have not been on
retreat for that election, but it was also a powerful way of meeting the moment as it is,
with bravery and integrity to the principles of our practice. I am proud of the courage
and dedication of all the participants in the JMMTT program that year, as well as of our
staff. We all held each other up in real ways.

I believe that the fundamentals of what we did that night are good guidelines for all of
us to practice in the midst of this season, including on election night.

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