On My Mind: Arnie Eisen

Archive for August, 2011

Jews and Others, Continued

/ 1 Elul 5771

Eisen podcast aug 30 by Jewish Theo Seminary

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

The search for balance between preserving Jewish distinctiveness from non-Jews and joining with others in partnership and dialogue is, for Conservative Jews, part of the larger dual commitment that defines our Movement. We are pledged to full engagement with Judaism—its practices, texts, and history—and we are pledged as well to full engagement with the societies and cultures of which we are a part.

The balance between “particular” and “universal” is sometimes difficult to locate and still harder to maintain. I offer the following seven suggestions, based on my own experience and that of communities of which I’ve been a part: Read the rest of this entry »

Jews and Others

/ 24 Av 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

Judaism has always sought a balance—between inward focus and outward focus, between the particular and the universal, attention to Jewish needs and attention to human needs, standing apart from the world and being an integral part of the world. The Sinai Covenant requires that Jewish attention be paid to both of these directions. On the one hand, there is work to be done on God’s earth and Jews need to join with non-Jewish allies to undertake and accomplish that work. No group can go it alone. On the other hand, Jews have always been committed to a vision of God’s will for the world that is unique. Our commitments—and the way of life that flows from them—have set us apart. As a small minority that has lived for most of our history in the midst of non-Jewish religions, cultures, and populations, we have had to take special care to guard our distinctiveness. The covenant thus impels Jews to care about and cooperate with others—and mandates, too, that we preserve our difference and, to some degree, our distance.
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Responding to Tefillah Posts

/ 10 Av 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

I want to second Barbara White’s comment that this blog has turned into a real conversation in the past few weeks—and that’s good. The outpouring of responses to my pieces on tefillah demonstrates yet again that Conservative Jews care about this subject, want tefillah to be part of their lives, and wish to see their synagogues strengthened. Thanks to all who took the time to share their thoughts.
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Meaningful Tefillah in the Synagogue, Continued

/2 Av 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

What shall we do to facilitate high-quality tefillah in Conservative synagogues, by which I mean tefillah that encourages encounter with God and reaches to the deepest layers of the self?

There is no one formula, of course. Jews bring different needs, backgrounds, beliefs, interests, and aesthetic sensibilities to the synagogue. They are lifted up in prayer by more than one kind of service. What “works” for me may leave you uninspired, and vice versa. Some congregations respond to this diversity by offering a variety of minyanim on Shabbat morning, making sure to bring all congregants together periodically so as not to lose the sense of being part of a single community. The following four guidelines for tefillah seem to me essential, regardless of a congregation’s size or the style of its worship:
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