Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
The philosophy, activities and offerings of Rimon: A Collaborative Community for Jewish Spirituality utilizes all of the four propositions described in Jewish Megatrends. Since our initial launch in 2012, we have offered an ongoing variety of programs and classes that explore the wisdom of Jewish spiritual teachings. We have consistently offered classes in Jewish mysticism, Torah study through the commentaries of the Hasidic Masters, Kabbalah as well as Talmud for today’s seekers. Rimon’s classes are always grounded in the kavanah that they will not only expand consciousness but also offer spiritual tools for becoming a more conscious, kind and compassionate human being. Our classes regularly offer parallel teachings from other spiritual traditions including Buddhism, Native American wisdom, Christianity, and Hinduism. Rimon’s classes are well-attended and draw Jews and non-Jews from diverse backgrounds. Additionally we have created an Interfaith Forum which brings together faith leaders from major world religions to share their spiritual beliefs and wisdom with one another and the greater community.
The propositions in Jewish Megatrends referred to as chochmah and kedushah are described as discreet entities with different goals. It is my experience with Rimon that one should not separate these categories. A Jewish educational experience that hopes to have a lasting impact must include both elements. Teaching our wisdom traditions as an intellectual practice will not revive Jewish life. Classes in Jewish wisdom must themselves be experiences of kedushah if they are to penetrate the heart and have lasting value. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. At Rimon we weave together Jewish teachings with similar teachings from the world religions and with spiritual practices such as Jewish meditation, chanting and experiential exercises. In this way, classes become more than an intellectual pursuit. They become a place for spiritual development.
Rimon embraces sacred work. We have created the first community-wide liberal Hevra Kadisha in our region. This Jewish Burial Society serves all Jews in the area and has provided a uniquely powerful vehicle for community members to engage in a profound experience of sacred service. From my perspective, the Hevra Kadisha provides the spiritual foundation for Rimon.
Understanding our zeitgeist is critical for all innovation. There is a worldwide growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all life on our planet. The environmental crisis, economic globalization and the internet have all contributed to the development of global consciousness. The inherent pluralism of Judaism, its concern for the environment, for the welfare of the oppressed as well as its strong universalist message position it as a source of wisdom and a critical spiritual resource at this pivotal junction in the story of humankind. Tzedek– yes- must be a part of every Jewish community, but not just for the sake of attracting millennial or covenantal Jews. Communal Jewish life must include social justice work and environmental tikkun not just to strengthen a Jewish future, but to ensure a future for all. Tzedek– yes- because that is the mission statement of the Jewish people. The world needs Judaism’s teachings and it needs a generation that is committed to pursuing and living these values through action. The vision needs to be broadened and deepened. What is at stake is more than just a Jewish future. What is at stake is the future of all children and the earth itself.
At Rimon we foster an environmental ethic through our own behavior. We compost and recycle all of our waste, organize support for the People’s Climate March, and partner with our local 350.org activist group on events. We offer prayer hikes that bring together Jewish spiritual practice with the natural world. Our interfaith healing services bring together partners of other faith traditions to raise consciousness and offer spiritual support to the wider Berkshire community regarding issues affecting our community. Rimon is a connector. We do not do Jewish in a silo. We are a member of Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, a community organizing group and I am an active member of the Interfaith Clergy Council of S. Berkshire.
In 2014, the Rimon Board reassessed the mission and vision of our organization. We originally launched as a ‘resource center’ but it became clear that this model did not fully capture the work we were doing. A community had emerged with the strong value of collaboration and the need to connect with one another more frequently. This resulted in Rimon’s first High Holiday services, designed to offer community members a strong voice in leadership and offerings. Rimon also increased the frequency of Shabbat services and has offered more social gatherings like Music Jams in members’ homes. Accordingly, our organization’s name was changed from ‘Rimon Resource Center for Jewish Spirituality’ to Rimon: A Collaborative Community for Jewish Spirituality. In all these ways, Rimon embodies the values described in Jewish Megatrends under the rubric of kehillah.
Another aspect of the zeitgeist that fuels Rimon’s vision is the voice of feminism and feminine archetypal values which stress a shift from competition to collaboration, from hierarchical power to shared leadership, from domination to sustainability. This paradigm shift must be echoed and supported in our spiritual life. At Rimon we believe that our spiritual leadership and institutions must model these critical values in they way we ‘do Jewish’. Rimon seeks opportunities to collaborate and build connections with local synagogues, churches and community organizations. We also seek to develop leadership from within our membership so that events are internally collaborative as well.
Overall, we do not view any of these guiding principles outlined in Jewish Megatrends as discreet categories. Chochmah, kedushah, tzedek and kehillah are all integral elements of the Rimon ethos and are woven together in most all of our programs.
Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman is founder and Director of Rimon: A Collaborative Community for Jewish Spirituality. She was also a co-founder of The Berkshire Minyan. Ordained by The Academy for Jewish Religion, prior to working in the Jewish world she served clients as a psychotherapist and Feng Shui consultant.