My beloved wife, the Velveteen Rabbi, is now a real rabbi. She was ordained on Sunday by the Jewish Renewal movement, a group founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who offered blessings at the ceremony. (He’s on the left in the photo below. Rachel is two to his right…)
I am absurdly proud of Rachel for the hard work she’s done and for achieving this incredible milestone. I’m also thrilled that she’s now a representative of this movement within Judaism. One of the traits the Renewal movement is best known for is its deep commitment to respect and dialog between faiths, especially Abrahamic faiths. Reb Zalman refers to this idea as “deep ecumenism”, a sense that some of the most important religious work people can do is in finding common ground between diverse religious traditions, and it’s the impulse that led him to complement his rabbinic identity with study in the Sufi Order of Hazrat Inayat Khan. For an entertaining and enlightening introduction to this idea, Rodger Kamenetz’s “The Jew In the Lotus“, which chronicles a journey Zalman and others took to Dharmsala at the invitation of the Dalai Lama to discuss the survival of Tibetan Buddhism in exile.
My spiritual roots are in the Episcopal church, specifically in a high school chapel whose doors are inscribed with the instruction: “Believers, say a prayer. Nonbelievers, be respectful.” It’s both an easy and challenging injunction, and I’m honored to be married to a religious leader who takes the challenges of finding common ground between people of all faiths – and none at all – seriously and leads with her actions as well as her words.
I suspect that Rachel will offer reflections on ordination on her blog once she’s back from the ALEPH conference in Colorado and has some time to digest – in the meantime, I’m simply too proud of her and too happy to wait for her to blog about it first. (And yes, despite the ordination, she’s keeping “Velveteen Rabbi” as pretty much the best blog title ever…) If the ordination wasn’t enough to celebrate, she’s released a new collection of poetry this week, titled 70 Faces, a lyrical reflection on a year’s cycle of Torah readings. (You can get it at Amazon…) Congratulations to Rachel, to her co-ordinands, and to anyone who follows their heart and their faith in the service of justice and cooperation.