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Communities of Meaning: Conversations on Modern Jewish Life Inspired by Rabbi Larry Hoffman

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Thirty-six leading Jewish thinkers engage Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman in dialogue about the big questions in American Jewish life in a book that invites readers into the unending “conversation” that is Judaism and challenges them to think creatively about the ideas and institutions that will shape Jewish life in the twenty-first century.

Includes contributions from Jill Abramson, Tony Bayfield, Angela Buchdahl, Joshua Davidson, Arnold Eisen, David Ellenson, Daniel, Judson, Noa Kushner, Liz Lerman, Andrew Reyfeld, Jonathan Sarna, Gordon Tucker, Deborah Waxman, Danny Zemel, and many others.

Full List of Contributors:

Cantor Jill Abramson is the director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC.

Rabbi Carole Balin is a writer and teacher, and chair of the board of the Jewish Women’s Archive and professor emerita of history at Hebrew Union College.

Rabbi Tony Bayfield was the head of Reform Judaism in Britain and is also Professor Emeritus of Jewish Theology and Thought at Leo Baeck College. 

Rabbi Joshua I. Beraha is an associate rabbi at Temple Micah in Washington, D.C. 

Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl serves as the senior rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City.

Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson is the senior rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in New York City. 

Rabbi Arnold Eisen is Chancellor Emeritus and Professor of Jewish Thought at the Jewish Theological Seminary. 

Rabbi David H. Ellenson is Chancellor Emeritus of Hebrew Union College. 

Rabbi Jodie M. Gordon is a rabbi at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  

Cantor Sarah Grabiner is the assistant director of the Year in Israel programme at HUC Jerusalem. 

Rabbi Hilly Haber is the director of social justice organizing and education at Central Synagogue in New York City.

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman is a teacher, translator, and author in New York.

Rabbi Delphine Horveilleur is France’s third female rabbi, and leads a progressive congregation in Paris 

Rabbi Daniel A. Judson is the Dean of Hebrew College in Newton, MA. 

Rabbi Elliot Kukla is an author, visual artist, and activist currently living in Oakland, California.  

Rabbi Noa Rachael Kushner founded The Kitchen, a hands-on international resource that serves thousands of modern families in San Francisco and around the world.

Rabbi Emily Langowitz is the Jewish engagement manager at the URJ and lives in Phoenix. 

Prof. Gordon W. Lathrop is the Schieren Professor of Liturgy Emeritus at the United Lutheran Seminary (USA) and a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Liz A. Lerman is a choreographer, writer, educator, and recipient of MacArthur “Genius Grant” and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is currently a professor at Arizona State University.

Rabbi Dalia Marx is professor at HUC in Jerusalem and teaches in various academic institutions in Israel and Europe. She is the tenth generation of her family in Jerusalem. 

Rabbi Daniel Medwin is the co-director of innovation and growth at URG 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. He lives in Georgia.

Rabbi Shira I. Milgrom is the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, New York.

Rabbi Sonja K. Pilz is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Bozeman, Montana. 

Prof. Andrew Rehfeld is the president of Hebrew Union College in New York.

Rabbi Daniel Reiser is the rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. 

Rabbi Nicole Kauffman Roberts is Senior Rabbi of North Shore Temple Emanuel in Sydney, Australia. 

Prof. Jonathan D. Sarna teaches American Jewish History at Brandeis University and is also Chief Historian of the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. 

Yolanda Savage-Narva is the assistant vice president of Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the URJ.

Rabbi Yael Splansky is the rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.

Rabbi Rachel Steiner is the senior rabbi at Barnert Temple in New Jersey.

Rabbi David E. Stern is Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas. 

Rabbi Gordon Tucker is Vice Chancellor for Religious Life and Engagement at The Jewish Theological Seminary and a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. 

Dr. Richard S. Vosko is an award-winning liturgical design consultant for Christian and Jewish congregations throughout North America.  

Professor Janet R. Walton is a musician, author, teacher, ritual leader, and professor emerita of worship and the arts at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman is president and CEO of Reconstructing Judaism.  

Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig teaches at HUC in New York City and is the first Jewish President of the Academy of Homiletics.

Rabbi Daniel Zemel is the senior rabbi at Temple Micah in Washington, D.C.

Foreword by Rabbi Daniel Zemel 

Foreword by Rabbi Carole Balin 

Piece by Dr. Rabbi Joel M. Hoffman

Introduction by Joseph A. Skloot and Lisa J. Grushcow 

Part 1. The Worship Revolution 

Section 1: Worship as Drama 

Chapter 1: Liturgy as Art by Rabbi Sonja Pilz 

Chapter 2: Worship: A conversation and vision by Professor Janet Walton 

Chapter 3: Creativity is our Birthright by Liz A. Lerman 


Section 2: Writing Prayers 

Chapter 4: Memory, Vulnerability, and Return by Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl 

Chapter 5: Bridge of One’s Own by Rabbi David E. Stern 

Chapter 6: How Prayers Mean by Rabbi Dalia Marx 


Section 3: Reimagining Jewish Worship 

Chapter 7: Notes on a Theology of the Internet by Rabbi Jodie M. Gordon and Rabbi Rachel Steiner 

Chapter 8: Future of Jewish Prayer by Rabbi Daniel Medwin 

Chapter 9: Jewish Values Shaped by Sacred Space by Dr. Richard S. Vosko 

Chapter 10: Building Bridges by Yolanda Savage-Narva 


Part 2. Rethinking North American Judaism 

Section 4: You Are Here 

Chapter 11: A Faith Bounded by Reason by Professor Andrew Rehfeld 

Chapter 12: To be a Jewish Community, Worthy of that Name by Rabbi Arnold Eisen 

Chapter 13: Reconstructing “belong” by Rabbi Deborah Waxman 

Chapter 14: A View from Outside by Rabbi Daniel A. Judson 


Section 5: From Common Cold to Uncommon Healing 

Chapter 15: Living at the Margins by Rabbi Shira I. Milgrom 

Chapter 16: Finding God with Other People by Rabbi Noa Rachael Kushner 

Chapter 17: From Common Cold to Uncommon Pandemic  by Professor Jonathan D. Sarna 


Section 6: Non-Jews and Jewish Lifecycle Liturgy 

Chapter 18: Abraham or Ruth? by Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson 

Chapter 19: The Place Where Tradition and the World Collide by Rabbi Hilly Haber 


Section 7: The Jewish Leader You Want to Be 

Chapter 20: Speaking Differently by Cantor Sarah Grabiner 

Chapter 21: Artists of the Jewish Message by Rabbi Joshua I. Beraha 


Part 3. On What Jews Do and Believe 

Section 8: What Counts for Jewish Knowledge

Chapter 22: What will “Jew” be? by Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur 

Chapter 23: A Foot in Each Camp: Pushing the Boundaries of Both by Rabbi Tony Bayfield 

Chapter 24: In Conversation with Silence by Rabbi Emily Langowitz 


Section 9: Authenticity 

Chapter 25: What Does it mean to be authentically Jewish by Cantor Jill Abramson 

Chapter 26: On Authenticity by Rabbi Yael Splansky 

Chapter 27: Choose Life by Rabbi Daniel Reiser 


Section 10: Land of the Sick 

Chapter 28: We Do Not Know What to Do by Rabbi Nicole Kauffman Roberts 

Chapter 29: Time Zone of the Kingdom of the Sick by Rabbi Elliott Kukla 


Section 11: I Do Believe 

Chapter 30: Faith and Hope in Time of Challenge by Rabbi David H. Ellenson 

Chapter 31: Hoffman’s Metafaith by Rabbi Gordon Tucker 


Section 12: Recovery of Hope 

Chapter 32: Ideas Matter by Professor Gordon W. Lathrop 

Chapter 33: Ideas that Matter by Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig 


About the Contributors