This week’s post is by Rabbi Rachel Short, founder of Ahavat Aina, the first and only Jewish cultural community center and synagogue on the Big Island of Hawai’i.
Rabbi Sid’s Jewish Megatrends was a breath of fresh air. Validation, if you will, that I am on the right path. That there is a need. A massive need.
How can Judaism survive? How do we ensure we will be able to pass on our traditions? Jewish Megatrends is insight into just that. The journey to awakening begins within the self. As we awaken as individuals within this realm of consciousness, we come to see the need to connect to the whole. To one another. To the One.
Yet I also have a difficult time relating to Jewish Megatrends. I feel somewhat distant from the North American Jewish life that it describes. Synagogues and Jewish community centers and these things that once gave me so much comfort in childhood, now feel so distant. Like an empty shell. Traditional services can feel hollow.
I am in Hawai’i, struggling to create something from the ground up. Yes, it is an amazing opportunity. But a scary one. A frustrating one. My people aren’t in synagogues. Or Jewish community centers. Not right now, unfortunately. They’re in yoga classes. At concerts. Festivals. Journaling in coffee shops. Finding peace in nature. Pulling cards. Charging crystals. Playing singing bowls. Sharing their astrological chart with friends. Scrolling Instagram reading quotes.
I guess, in a way, that’s who I am, too. Rooted in Judaism and tradition, but differently. To now. Not the patriarchal man in the sky I grew up with; not the stereotypical male rabbi who was unrelatable, often even intimidating and scary. This is why we say “amen” and “awomen,” during my services.
This challenge is real. The struggle we face as a whole, let alone as Jews, is real. Am I being the change we need? I hope so, but there is still much more to be done if we want Judaism to survive. A paradigm shift, a new age of consciousness, a revolution and evolution unlike anything that has ever happened before. This is where the “chosen” people will see they were given the power of choice. In every sense. This is the power that ensures our survival.
The wisdom to choose. The power of choice.
Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, became one of my favorite books long before I was a rabbi. It is a look into our energy centers, the Hindu Chakras, Kabbalah Sefirot, and Christian Sacraments. The energy that connects us all. I believe everything is energy, and when we look at the sacred teachings of any culture, religion, or heritage, we can choose to see the similarities. We can see the energy, the oneness, that connects us all. This, to me, is the wisdom.
The community congregation I have founded, Ahava ‘Aina, is an all-inclusive community. All faiths, all beliefs, all ages, all beings, are welcome and encouraged to join Ahava ‘Aina. We embody the essence of the island on which we live. A diverse community of people living on an active volcano in the middle of the ocean. A place where there has never been a synagogue or Jewish community center, but has many Jews. Jews who are either starving for Judaism, or have abandoned it completely.
Hawai’i is a melting pot for all walks of life. Our community is the embodiment of diversity. From Hawaiian to Native American to Asian, we incorporate all cultures and traditions, while honoring our Jewish roots. I am also active in Interfaith Communities in Action and speak monthly at the Hawai’i Center for Spiritual Living. Many friends and Ahava ‘Aina members are leaders of different faiths.
Hawaiian culture deeply impacts our community. The presence that is alive on our island, the Hawaiian goddess known as Pele, cannot be ignored. To do so would be disrespectful to Hawai’i and her people. Hawaiian culture is to Hawai’i what Judaism is to Israel. I honor and respect that, and draw from many of the similarities between them, in addition to Hindu, Native American, Yogic culture and traditions, as well as Christianity. I believe we are all speaking the same language of love, just in different dialects. We are all climbing the same mountain, but taking different paths.
Tikkun olam is the mission of Ahava ‘Aina. I hand selected my board of “Mitzvah Makers,” made up of a State Senator, Hawai’i County Prosecuting Attorney (who is also running for Mayor), lesbian activist and artist, local organic farmer and business owner, and an attorney. Each of us is an individual rooted and active in our community, with a strong desire to make a difference, to be the change. We are all actively involved politically, socially, economically, agriculturally and more.
“Shaloha,” is the greeting I use. A combination of “Shalom” and “Aloha.” The “ha,” in “aloha” is the breath of life, as is the “om,” in “Shalom.” This is the essence of our welcoming, all-inclusive community congregation. Ahava ‘Aina is the only option if you wish to engage in anything Jewish on the east side of the Big Island of Hawai’i. People who are traveling and looking for something Jewish find us, as do locals who are curious, Jews who have missed Judaism for years, and people who just want to share something spiritual.
We have a different sense of community on our island. When you experience lava erupting, it makes you much closer with those around you. I live somewhere where people still smile, wave, make eye contact, exchange an “Aloha,” and truly connect. Our community reflects the island vibe, the “Aloha vibe,” that is the essence of Hawai’i. We create a safe sacred place for all beings who wish to connect with Judaism and spirituality, or just be.
Lives of Sacred Purpose/Kedusha
Whether through yoga, meditation, Reiki, astrology, crystals, essential oils, journaling, quantum thinking, pulling cards, communicating with our angels, looking deeper into our sacred contract and divine mission, or something else, I believe everyone can choose to find a way to connect to their inner spiritual essence. I am here to help guide everyone and anyone wherever they are on their spiritual path. Living life is a sacred purpose. Being is sacred.
I am here now
To help us connect
We all speak love
In different dialects
We are The Divine
The rainbow we reflect
Honor the sacred
Choose to protect
Into the future project
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Rabbi Rachel Short is the founder of Ahavat Aina, the first and only Jewish cultural community center and synagogue on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Before she became a rabbi, she worked as a Holistic Healer, Reiki Master Teacher and Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga Leader. She incorporates all of those practices in her rabbinate, often rapping her sermons and including yoga, self-healing and meditation in her services.