I feel immensely grateful to the way that my family of birth exposed me to judaism. We were a secular family with deep reverence for our roots. I carry this reverence to this day, despite being deeply troubled by the patriarchal aspects of Judaism, including the way it can be used to justify the oppression of others. In high school, I was part of a tiny group of about five of us who studied with an amazing scholar of both Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah (the Jewish mystical tradition), which seeded a lifelong interest in Judaism. This relationship deepened considerably after encountering the book Jewish Renewal by Michael Lerner, in which he invites us, in each generation, to sift through the sources and identify what is what he calls “the voice of God” and what he calls “the voice of accumulated pain and cruelty” and what I now call patriarchal conditioning.
In my book Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness, I have a chapter called “Heaven on Earth” that is about what I treasure within Judaism. In it, I name the qualities within it that continue to be foundational to how I approach everything: a commitment to Tikkun Olam (healing and repair of the world), an attempt to anchor economic justice in daily living, grounding everything in practice and not just beliefs; a positive relationship with the body, an acceptance of human fallibility, trust that life is redeemable, deep grounding in community, a orientation to questioning authority (including god), and one more that I did not include, which is the belief that human souls are pure. Every last one of these sustains my strength and my capacity to continue to walk towards vision, even on difficult days.