Interview Rabbi Art Green Part II- Neo-Hasidism

This is part II of a two-part interview with Art Green, the first part is here.

This part, we look at his new book A New Hasidism: Roots  (JPS, 2019), a volume where we can directly read the essays, which give the antecedents to Green’s thought. This first volume explores the writings of Buber, Heschel, Carlebach, Reb Zalman, and Arthur Green’s early work creating a genealogy of what would become the spiritual path of Neo-Hasidism.

Shai Ish-Horowitz (1861–1922) applied the term Neo-Hasidism to IL Peretz and other literary forms of Hasidism such as Michael Levi Frumkin-Rodkinson (1845–1904), which were creating a romantic glorification of the Jewish peasant and his folk tales. The term was originally about a literary genre applied to dozens of authors in the first half of the twentieth century such as Berdichevsky, Pinchas Sadah, Eliezer Steinman, or J. L. Snitzer. 

In contrast, this book is about a late 20th century American Jewish revival movement. Green defines the prefix neo as a translation of the Hebrew word for newness (hadash). For Green, the original 18th century Hasidism began as a renewal movement in Judaism, a creative spirit against the formulaic and rote, so too the 20th century authors Buber and Zeitlin sought renewal and rebirth. The goal was to rescue Hasidism from the shells of darkness (klippot) into which it fell.  The focus is on seeing the world as filled with divine glory, and as the purpose of human life to raise sparks. As noted by Green, Neo-Hasidism is to awaken a very this worldly Judaism into being God centered – a focus on the mysterious divine presence and oneness of being.

Martin Buber is represented at three stages in his thinking about Hasidism, first as mysticism, second as dialogue, and third as a renewal of spirituality. Green comments that Neo-Hasidism is not about reading original Hasidic texts, but in creating a renewal from it. Hillel Zeitlin envision an elite group dedicated to a spiritual and contemplative life, a reformulation of Hasidism after James, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. For Green, Zeitlin is a core of his thought of a renewed formulation of Hasidism. From Heschel, we get inwardness, serving God and the willingness to critique society. For Green’s debt to Heschel, see questions #3 and #11 in the interview part I. Reb Shlomo Carlebach brings a passionate, emotional, post-Holocaust path dealing with anger, loneliness, and the need for connection.

Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is credited with calling for Neo-Hasidc rebbes, and the creation of a Neo-Hasidic brotherhood and spiritual community. He is also credited with calling for a radical revamp of the liturgy, and to break down boundaries, seeking for the evolutionary, global, and interreligious. Whereas Green uses a monistic language, Reb Zalman has a more multi-vocal language and looking to many experiences and religions. Reb Zalman is more practice centered, a kalidiscope of relgious experiences.

Art Green includes a selection of his thinking including two essays about his early use of psychedelics and finding God in all things, and his 2003 talk at the seminal Neo-Hasidic conference where he defines Neo-Hasidsm in thought, word, and action. Thought is defined as worldview, word is defined as religious language, and action, Green admits that Neo-hasidism is problematic in the implementation as action. Better than these, is that Volume II open with Green’s Neo-Hasidic credo (which is reproduced here as the last question).

From my frame of reference, I would like to compare Art Green’s Neo-Hasidic approach to the various Neo-Hindu groups that came to be at the same time. The yogic philosophy speaks of three paths: jnana yoga (self-realization), bhakti yoga (devotion), and karma yoga (actions-either ritual or service to others). Green’s approach would be what is called a jnana-yoga path, one about self-realization and then acting in life based on this higher spiritual realization. There were many Neo-Hindu teachers in the US teaching a path of self-realization such as Paramahansa Yogananda, with a focus on realization of our true nature and the true nature of reality. In contrast, most of those attracted to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach were on a bhakti path of devotion, song, storytelling. And Pearle Epstein called Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s books on mizvot as karma yoga. This comparison of Neo-Hasidic to Neo-Hinduism also gives us a sharper understanding of the role of Green’s concept of self-transcendence to a God who is not out-there but inside ourselves as our true nature if we realize it. It is not new age self-worship but similar to the jnana-yoga path of Neo-Hinduism, a realization of the true nature of the self and reality.

The volume A New Hasidism: Roots is specifically those authors and teachers that influenced Art Green’s. Neo-Hasdism and only those. As if a Neo-Hindu teacher explained that his guru approach was built on Swami Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, and Swami Sivananda, but excluded as not part of his path Amma, & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In a similar manner, the volume is about Rabbi Art Green’s teachers not a comprehensive history. I doubt that if Reb Zalman or Reb Shlomo edited the volume that it would be the same.

On to a more sensitive topic, multiple yoga gurus have been accused of sexual improprieties: including Bikram Choudhury, creator of Bikram Yoga; Swami Satchidananda, Amrit Desai, creator of Kripalu Yoga; Muktananda, founder of Siddha Yoga, and Swami Rama, founder of the Himalayan Institute. In a similar manner, several teachers of Neo-Hasidism have histories of sexual impropriety. But just as a visitor to a yoga studio will be told how this studio relates to Kripalu, Birkam, or Sivananda without a long history of the people involved, so too this book walks gently concerning these issues, focusing on the spiritual message. Its goal is not to be a Jewish version of Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism, by editors Ann Gleig & Lola Williamson (Suny 2013) Specifically, the book is emic and not etic, a resource book not a critical work.

Finally, I teach at various Yoga retreats. This year, due to Covid, I taught by Zoom so I taught in more places than usual. From these experiences, I do not see those Jews at Yoga retreats wanting Rabbi Green’s Neo-Hasidism as their path.  From the opposite direction, and more importantly, all this talk of intentional community, spiritual brotherhood, and relgious language is not aimed at our highly successful Jewish community –litigators, hedge fund managers, and surgeons who are competitive, outer directed, action oriented and not especially inward.

But I like the message. However, I preferred part I of this interview where Art Green showed  “A Judaism of Love” of heartfelt divine warmth, full of faith, and light.

  1. For you, what is Buber’s contribution to Neo-Hasidism?

Buber was the first to present Hasidism as a teaching about how to live in the world, one that might be applicable to people far beyond the traditional Hasidic communities, both westernized Jews and non-Jews.  He instinctively felt the presence of deep and abiding universal wisdom in the Hasidic sources, which he encountered in their “raw” form.  Living long after Buber, we tend to take much of this initial “translation” effort for granted.  But he looked at poorly-written lists of Hasidic practices, hanhagot, and half-transcribed oral teachings, vertlekh, and was able to find gems within them.  These, along with the tales that he loved so much, he distilled into a philosophy of life.  All of us, beginning with Scholem, were led to discover Hasidism through paths he first opened before us.  To appreciate Buber, read his early essay “The Life of the Hasidim,” included in A New Hasidism: Roots.  A romantic re-creation to be sure, but a great gem of Jewish religious literature

2. For you, what is Zeitlin’s contribution to Neo-Hasidism? After all these years, did you realize what you initially found in Zeitlin?

Zeitlin presented Hasidism as a distinctive Jewish mystical theology.  He was brought back to Judaism after much exposure both to Eastern thought and to Western philosophy, especially Spinoza and Nietzsche.  He read the derashot, the fullest teachings of Hasidism, much more seriously than did Buber.  He was able to take the thought of the Maggid of Mezritch and his disciples and shape it into a sort of primitive phenomenology.  His thinking, as reflected in the two key essays presented in the Roots volume, lies at the base of much of my own approach to Judaism.

3. Is Zeitlin’s Bnai Aliyah the same as your vision of the rabbinical school?

No and yes.  Zeitlin was try to create neo-Hasidic groups in Poland of the 1920’s.  The times in which we live, a century later, are very different; the problems we Jews confront are of an entirely different order.  He was addressing primarily Jews like himself, those who had fled the very traditional world from which they had come.  I encounter many who come from the periphery of Jewish life, seeking a way in.  I am also truly a pluralist, one who does not require all the rabbis who study at our institution to share my theology or approach to Jewish living.  I hope they will be exposed to it, and that my thinking will have stimulated them to do and articulate their own.  But that’s all I expect.

Then why the “yes?”   Because I, like Zeitlin a century ago, believe that Judaism is deeply in need of a spiritual revival, and that there is much in the mystical tradition (Zohar and early Hasidism especially – we share those choices) that can inspire it, if properly selected, taught, and universalized. 

The tools needed for such a revival include selected and translated Hasidic sources as well as my (and my students’) reflections on them, along with my own theological writings, deeply shaped by my lifelong engagement with Hasidism.  I am now completing a commentary on the Jewish prayerbook, soon to be published, and am working on a collection of brief teachings, divrey torah, on the weekly Torah portion cycle.  I hope that all of these will be useful to the widest array of future teachers and leaders among Jewish generations to come, both here and in Israel, where I have also developed a serious readership, in Hebrew translation.  Neo-Hasidism can not just be about teaching the old texts, even those I love so much.  We too need to create our own Torah, in the spirit of our generation, to keep Torah vital as a living process.

4. How do you see yourself as different than Reb Zalman?

Zalman was my very dear friend and mentor.  I loved him deeply and learned a great deal from him, on many levels.  But he was not a rebbe to me, as he was to so many others.  I was not  able to permit that, and he understood that and related to me as a younger peer, and eventually as a true friend.  That became important to him; it is not easy for a rebbe to have friends.

In the course of his break with Chabad, which was long and painful, Zalman became attracted to the language and value system of the “New Age.”  I was much more suspicious of it than he was, and did not become a true believer in it.  While we both found experimentation with psychedelics  very significant in our spiritual lives in the late 1960’s (see my two essays in Roots), I left them behind more than Zalman did.  He saw himself as a prophetic figure living on the edge of the Age of Aquarius, wanting to help bring it about and to create a religious outlook appropriate to it.  For him, this would be based in Judaism, since that was such a deep part  of his identity, but he strove to be wide open to learning from everyone, allowing for a significant degree of eclecticism in creating new forms of religious praxis.

My trajectory was different.  I did not come from such a closed place; therefore, I did not have to struggle so hard to be wide open.  I came to see myself as both a scholar and theologian, trying to understand the sources of Kabbalah and Hasidism and also to the separate task of articulating a contemporary Jewish mysticism.  I felt (and continue to feel) a great sense of responsibility both to the sources themselves and to the Jewish people.  Once I became involved in rabbinic training (starting at RRC in 1984), that commitment to providing leadership that would both sustain and revive a distinctively Jewish spirituality became central to me.  A rabbi, as I insist on telling my students, is not just an American clergyman of the Jewish persuasion, there to guide people in their spiritual growth and support them in times of need.  We are heirs to a great tradition and leaders of an ancient community, one that seeks to continue its existence.  Being a rabbi demands that we learn to love Jews, even those who disagree with us, in order to work together toward building that future.

Zalman introduced me to my dear wife Kathy and officiated at our wedding.  He introduced us as two young people interested in joining his envisioned semi-monastic Jewish community, to be called Bnai Or (See his essay in Roots).  That community never happened.  We went on to form Havurat Shalom, which was influenced by the original Bnai Or vision, but was quite different.  The Bnai Or that became Jewish Renewal was founded by Zalman in Philadelphia, in a house around the corner from us that we had found for him and Elana.  After attending the first few meetings, we both sadly realized that our approaches had diverged, and that this rather wildly eclectic and new-age version of Judaism was simply not for us.  In later years, Zalman himself walked back from some of the more extreme aspects of his 1980’s eclecticism, but that is another story

5. The volumes gave little instruction on how to be a Neo-Hasid. Why not?

In general, it is true that the Hasidic sources offer little by way of specific step-by-step instructions in religious enlightenment.  This is one of several reasons why Buddhist pathways have become so attractive and are being integrated within contemporary Jewish life. (I am not opposed to this, if it is done carefully, separating methods and techniques of meditation from the cultural/religious setting in which they were developed.  This is not always an easy task.)  In my EHYEH: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow, I offer a number of meditational practices, but that is not my usual style.  For other sources of Jewish meditational praxis, try the works by the Piasecner rebbe, by Menahem Eckstein, and by Aryeh Kaplan.  All of these are useful.

I think the Hasidic masters felt that Judaism was already filled with “how to’s.”  On the one hand, all of the mitsvot were ways of embodying their spiritual message.  On the other, everything one does and encounters in life should become an occasion for awareness and an object of devotion.  What they wanted to teach was an attitude toward life and toward the existing practice itself; they did not need to offer new means.  As my life has gone on, I have come to realize this truth in a more personal way.

I am proud of the fact that my closest students include a wide array of divergence with regard to religious practice.  The important thing is to remember that devekut, attachment to the One, is the goal; all the rest of religion is a means toward it, not an end in itself.   Praxis is supposed to teach you how to see the rest of life through that lens as well. 

6. Is the future of Neo-hasidism with Entheogen usage?

I am happy to see that psychedelics and their place in spiritual growth are being rediscovered by lots of serious people.  I believe they are a great tool, if used responsibly and integrated to a life of religious discipline.  I came to realize, after my LSD experiences, that finding your way to the mountaintop was not the real struggle in the religious life.  The greater effort was recalling that peak experience on an ordinary dull weekday afternoon,  and trying to live – and to build human community – in the light of it.  No psychedelic drug can do that for you. 

How does one do it?  By the tried-but-true methods of torah u-tefilah.  Study each day a text or an aspect of Torah that excites your soul.  It may be from the Torah text itself or from the widest array of later teachings.  I have tried to share many of those that have worked best for me.  Tefilah, a regular practice of prayer/meditation, ideally twice each day (as close to dawn and dusk as possible, with consciousness of them) is also a great tool for restoring awareness, for climbing back onto the path.

7. What is the future of your Neo-Hasidic ideal?

I am delighted at those among our students and alumni who have chosen to read me seriously and join in this quest.  It is they, among others, serving in the community long after I am gone, who will help to bring about such a revival.  My life is much about providing them the tools. 

I do not need to own the term neo-Hasidism.  It is used to describe a wide spectrum of approaches to Jewish life based on the memory of Hasidism.  What Ariel Mayse and I have tried to do in A New Hasidism is to emphasize those sources and directions that we think will be most useful in creating that future.  But as a pluralist, I am happy to see it develop in other ways as well, including some I would never have considered.

Let me use the example of neo-Hasidic music, where the range of creativity has been very great; new niggunim are constantly being created and performed.  I myself may be an old-fashioned guy, enjoying niggun singing without electronic amplification and all the rest.  But I still appreciate the Hasidic soul that is alive in what is emerging, even though it goes beyond the limits of my own capacity to absorb.

8. What is the future of American Jewry in your opinion?

In the course of my life, I have sadly watched the decimation of the American Jewish community.  I am the Jew I am because of childhood memories.  I was partly raised by grandparents who had immigrated from Eastern Europe before the First World War and still carried within them the richness of Yiddish speech and traditional Jewish culture.  I loved that world and was attracted to it.  But all that is long gone now.  The grandchildren of most of my cousins, on all sides of my family, are no longer Jews in any significant way.  I feel great sadness about that.  Much of it is due, of course, to the inevitable process of assimilation and the positive fact of our acceptance within American society.  (I am aware of the complex racial aspects of that, the acceptance of “white privilege,” etc., but that is not our subject here.)

Will Judaism survive in America?  Orthodoxy has provided one set of answers to that question.  “Yes,” it claims, if we build the walls high enough and strengthen the commitment to observance, in all its details.  Where those walls lie, of course, varies across the wide spectrum of what is now called Orthodoxy, but the strategy is essentially the same.  That will work for a certain minority, those who have deep roots in the tradition and some others who are psychologically attracted to such a fully mapped-out pattern of living.  But for most American Jews, including some who grew up within it, that approach will not suffice.

The whole denominational structure of American Jewish religious life, based on the question: “How much does one have to observe?” has always seemed absurd and trivializing to me.  The Hasidic emphasis, and the neo-Hasidic approach, is all based on the question of inner direction, kavvanah, and how to re-stimulate it.  If we need to measure something, let us invent a thermometer that will measure the degree of love and warmth created by our mitsvot, rather than counting how many of them we observe. That is where the focus of my religious life, and my teaching, lies.  It is all about the heart.

Either by chance or by providence, depending on your point of view, we American Jews wound up in a country where religion continues to play a significant role in human life.  For reasons beyond our scope here, spiritual seeking became a major preoccupation of large numbers of young Americans, beginning in the 1960’s and continuing into our own day.  Many Jews are involved in it, but as part of a much broader American phenomenon.  (Something parallel is now happening in Israel, but that’s another story.)  I believe that a neo-Hasidic approach to Judaism might speak to large numbers of such seekers, including both Jews and others who will find its teachings attractive.  It is for them, and the Jewish teachers who will reach out to them, that I write.  I want to open the doorways to this tradition as a spiritual path, to create a Judaism that welcomes seekers and helps them to feel at home.

9) How are you so prolific in writing? What is your discipline and schedule for translation and writing?

I find this hard to answer, as I do not consider it to be true.  I could have done much more.  But one thing I will say.  Turning 70 gave me a much-needed kick in the butt.  The psalmist’s verse “The days of our lives are seventy years” stared at me in the face and demanded “What else do you still want to get done?”  “Lots,” was my answer, and I got to work.  My seventies, just about to conclude, have been the richest and most prolific decade of my life.  As I face eighty, trying to gather my strength (gevurot, as in the following verse), I find the task still incomplete.  I expect I’ll be working on it harder than ever.

My only answer to the mal’akh ha-mavet, the angel of death, who inevitably begins to hover closer at this age, will be “Go away.  I’m too busy.”

10. How does one get started in Neo-Hasidism?

Look at my “Neo-Hasidic Credo” in the Branches volume,



Hasidism is a Judaism based on hesed, meaning love or compassion.  It calls us to a love for God, for Torah or wise teachings, and for one another.  All that we do in this world should be motivated by our pursuit of hesed.   As hesed is an endlessly flowing love, a hasid is one who loves and gives generously, stretching beyond limits, suspending judgment of those who receive that love, and without thought of recompense or reward.

  1. There is only One. All existence began as and forever remains a simple, undifferentiated whole.  Because Y-H-W-H (the Hebrew term for “God,” really “is-was-will be”) is beyond time, the oneness that underlies reality has never changed.  Our evolving, ever-changing cosmos, filled with an endless array of individual creatures and the absolute stasis of that singular Being are two faces of the same One.  Our seeming existence as individuals, like all of physical reality, is the result of tsimtsum, a contraction or de-intensification of the presence of that One, so that our minds can encounter it and yet continue to regard ourselves as separate beings, in order to fulfill our worldly task.  Daily life requires us to live as separate individuals and to recognize both the boundaries between self and other and the great opportunity for communion across those boundaries.  In ultimate reality, however, that separate existence is mostly illusion.  The call of Shema‘ Yisra’el, that “God is one” means that we are all one.  Divine presence (shekhinah) underlies, surrounds, and fills all of existence.  It is not limited to any particular place, nor is awareness of it limited to Jews or Judaism.  Awareness of and encounter with this presence is the purpose of all religious life.  

2.  To be a hasid means to live in loving awareness of God’s presence in all that we encounter, and to act in response to it.   Being part of the One calls upon us to love all that is.  Our pursuit of hesed leads us to find sparks of divine light scattered everywhere, in every human being and throughout the world, but often hidden behind both real and illusory “shells.”  Our task is to seek out and discover those sparks, even in the most unlikely places, in order to raise them up and re-join them to their Source.  This work of redeeming the sparks and restoring wholeness, carried out on spiritual, physical, and social planes, fills the daily life of the true hasid.  It brings joy to shekhinah and to us as we re-affirm the divine and cosmic unity.  “God needs to be served in every way.” All of life is an opportunity for discovering and responding to the divine presence.  The way we relate to every creature is a mirror of our devotion to our Creator, who lives in all of them, the single presence behind every mask. 

3. That joyous service of Y-H-W-H is the purpose of human existence.  The One delights in each creature, in every single distinctive form in which it is garbed.   But we human beings occupy a unique role in the hierarchy of ever-evolving Creation, having the capacity for awareness of the larger picture and an inbuilt striving for meaning-making.  We must shape that awareness so as to make us desire to serve, to fulfill our unique role as denizens of two worlds.  We become most fully human as we stretch to realize the divine image in which we are created.

4. The essence of our religious life lies in the deep inward glance, a commitment to a vision of spiritual intensity and attachment to the One.  Surface appearances do not suffice for us.  This is true with regard to our encounter with humans, both ourselves and others.  It applies also to our view of the world, as we seek the hidden One within the many.  So too is it the key to our encounter with Torah and religious praxis.  We are ever in search for their deeper layers of meaning, bringing us back to awareness of the single truth.

5. Outer deeds are important; the mitsvot are the forms into which we pour our devotion; they call out to us to be fulfilled.  There is no Judaism without ahavat ha-mitsvot, a loving devotion to our forms of religious life. They are the tools our tradition gives us to achieve and maintain awareness.  Each such mitsvah is be seen as a great gift, an opportunity to stand in the divine presence in a unique way.  At the same time, we need to recall that the mitsvot are means rather than ends in themselves.  They are vessels to contain the divine light that floods the soul,  concrete embodiments of the heart’s inward quest.  They also serve as paradigms for the rest of human actions.  To live fully in God’s presence is to do everything as though it were a mitsvah.

6. Our human task begins with the uplifting and transforming of our spiritual and emotional selves to become ever more perfect vehicles for God’s service.  This requires us to demand much of ourselves, setting a high bar for our spiritual aspirations, including the life of prayer. This process begins with the key devotional pair of love and awe, which together lead us to our sense of the holy.  But it also means treating ourselves with kindness, accepting our own human limitations.  Care for both body and spirit, our own and others’, as God’s handiwork, is also a vital part of our worldly task.   Regarding the body, there is much correction needed of a prior imbalance in Judaism.

7. The deeper look at reality should put us at odds with the superficial values of the consumerist and overly self-centered society amid which we live.  Being, unlike our Hasidic ancestors, citizens of a free society, we can and must take a critical stance toward all that we regard as dehumanizing or degrading in our general culture.  Care for each person, including both Jew and non-Jew, as a unique image of God and as our fellow-limb on the single Adamic body or Tree of Life, is the first way we express our love of God.  It is in this that we are tested, both as individuals and societies.  We envision a Jewish community that speaks out with a strong moral voice.  We offer special devotion to the great moral challenge of our age, that of preserving our planet as a livable and verdant home for future generations.

8. The above principles all flow directly from an expansive Hasidic reading of Torah, classical Jewish teachings.  We live in an abiding and covenanted love relationship to Torah.  That means the text, “written Torah,” and the whole of the oral tradition, including our own interpretive voices.  All of these point us to the cosmic and wordless Torah that lies within and beyond them.  We know that our people has mined endless veins of wisdom and holiness from within the Torah text, and we continue in that path, adding new methods of interpretation to the old. The whole process of renewal through constant reinterpretation is sacred to us.       

9. We are Jews.  We have a special love for our people, past, present, and future, a love that only increases our love for all of humanity, indeed for all of God’s creatures.  We bear within us the pain of Jewish suffering and the joy of Jewish rebirth.  We consider the ingathering of exiles and the renewal of Jewish life that has taken place in the Land of Israel to be among the great miracles of our era.  We fully and joyously embrace the emergence of a free and proud Jewish people in the Holy Land, and at the same time celebrate a rich and creative Jewish existence wherever Jews live. We Jews exist in order to bear witness to our truth.  As bearers of a great spiritual legacy, we survive and carry our traditions forward as embodiments of divine hesed.   

10. Our world suffers from a great imbalance of energy between the typically “male” and “female” energies.  Neo-Hasidism needs to be shaped by the voices of women alongside men, as full participants in every aspect of its emergence.  We welcome devotion to the one God through the channels of shekhinah and binah, Y-H-W-H as saving and protecting Mother, even as we know that all metaphors and symbols point to the elusive One that lies both within and beyond them.

11. Hasidism at its best and worst is built around the figure of the tsaddik, a charismatic holy man blessed by God and capable of transmitting divine blessing. We too recognize that there are gifted spiritual teachers in our world and we thank God for their presence and our ability to learn from them.  But we live in an age that is rightly suspicious of such figures, having seen charisma used in sometimes dangerous ways.  We therefore underscore the Hasidic teaching that each person has his/her own path to walk and sparks of light to discover.  We encourage spiritual independence and responsibility. 

12. Hasidism, like Judaism itself, believes in community.  The sense of hevrayyah or fellowship among followers of a particular path is one of the greatest tools it offers for spiritual growth.  Cultivating spiritual friendships and communities that allow one to work through personal struggles and the obstacles each person finds in the path, as well as developing an ear to listen well to the struggles of others, is one of the great gifts to be learned from the Hasidic tradition.

13. We are heirs to one of the world’s great spiritual traditions.  We recognize that Torah is our people’s unique language for expressing an ancient and universal truth.  For many centuries, persecution and hatred made it the legacy of Jews alone.  While its exclusively inward-looking focus gave it great depth, in our age it needs to breathe deeply the air of freedom, broadening its focus and addressing the great issues that confront all humanity.  As we join with other seekers in the quest for that universal truth, we remain committed to preserving our ancient language and way of life in full richness, limited only by ethical challenges.  We believe that we have much to offer in a spiritual conversation that transcends all borders, as we have much to learn from others.   We enter into that conversation happily, coming together with others who admit in collective humility that none of our languages embodies truth in its fullness.

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