Culture, Israel, Justice, Religion

Spiritual Nourishment and Radical Religious Community for the Jewish High Holidays

North Carolina is not known as hotbed of Jewish political activism, or Jewish anything for that matter. It’s no Berkeley, and it’s certainly not Brookline, but this year we aim to bring a little radical reflection to your high holy days.
The NC Havurah will be hosting a wonderful Yom Kippur retreat at The Stone House. So if you live in the area (or you’re willing to travel), come join us in building a spiritual and radical religious community at a two day Yom Kippur retreat full of study, singing, fasting, and prayer.
We plan to create a spiritually uplifting, emotionally engaging, introspective, and welcoming space. In addition to focusing on our personal atonement we will be talking and reflecting critically about the teaching/meaning of Yom Kippur in the context of the ongoing occupation of Palestine and Palestinian people. We welcome people who identify in a diversity of ways. This will be an antizionist, nonzionist, diasporist, queer and trans positive space.

We will spend Sunday day in a variety of workshops, studying and discussing the themes, prayers, practices, and meaning of Yom Kippur. This will include private and paired engagement in teshuva (a return/change/repentance/transformation/healing process) to help us reflect on where we have been in the previous year and where we aim to be in the year to come. Sunday evening and Monday we will observe Yom Kippur together through prayer, singing, fasting, and reflection. On Monday evening we will break fast together.
Services, study, and discussion will be led by Rabbinical student and activist Ari Lev Fornari, and others.
This spiritual radical retreat will be held at The Stone House in Mebane, N.C.
SUNDAY: Sept 27th
Workshops 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Festive Meal to Start the Fast 5 p.m.
Kol Nidre Services 6:30 p.m.
MONDAY: Sept 28th
Yom Kippur Retreat 10 a.m. – Sunset
Break Fast 6:30 p.m.
Festive Meal and Break Fast are potluck. Drinks will be provided.
In order to offset the costs associated with the retreat, we ask that you make a financial contribution that meets your budget anywhere in the range of $25-$150. No one turned away for lack of funds!
In order to plan properly, we ask you to pre-register by emailing [email protected] Let us know whether you will be attending Sunday and/or Monday and/or both and indicate whatever contribution you feel you can make (if you can).
(x-posted to JVoices)

41 thoughts on “Spiritual Nourishment and Radical Religious Community for the Jewish High Holidays

  1. This will be an antizionist, nonzionist, diasporist, queer and trans positive space.
    Will there be space for Jews too?
    Seems a little crowded.

  2. Victor, I’m sure you think you’re being cute, but guess what? Some of us are antizionist Jews, or nonzionist Jews, or diasporist Jews, or queer Jews, or trans Jews, or even combinations of many of those categories. And with your comment, you just cut us out of the Jewish people. This is why so many of us are so devoted to vigilant inclusivity work within the Jewish community.

  3. dlevy,
    Victor, I’m sure… you’re… cute
    Women of color – black, arab and indian – overwhelmingly think so. Can’t really marry any of them… well, there’s that yefat to’ar thing, but anyway it’s the thought that counts.
    Look it… the description seemed vague enough (or perhaps overly specific) that I didn’t know if Jews were even invited. Certainly no hyphen-Jews were mentioned, as they were by you. I try not to take anything on this blog for granted. For all I knew, it could have been an interfaith event.
    or even combinations of many of those categories
    Diversity among Jews?! You just blew my mind.
    And with your comment, you just cut us out of the Jewish people.
    Wow! Heartwrenching, really. And here I thought you were cutting ME out of the Jewish people! dlevy, you couldn’t break my love for you if you tried.
    On anti-Zionism.

  4. While I will agree with victor that the tone is a little “PFJ”, I think he’s being crass.
    Victor. Grow up. You’ve been commenting on Jewschool for a while. Let it educate you.

  5. This sounds like it has less to do with Yom Kippur than it does with Leftist anti-Israelism. (“For the sin we have committed in occupation….”) I take it Zionists aren’t welcome?
    Funny to think that “queer[s] and trans positive[s]” would be interested in creating a Palestinian state that will abuse and kill their queer and trans positive fellows.

  6. So can women of color not be Jews now too? You really have a thing for separation.
    You got me, Trista. Racist, sexist, homophobe – that’s me! Branded, tagged and packaged. You’re still not as polished at it as some others here, but keep practicing.
    PFJ? Pioneers for Yoshka?
    Crass, Amit? Really?
    It was more tongue in cheek.
    On top of which, half the comments which follow agree with me!
    Jewschool… Let it educate you.
    Now THAT’S a little PFJ. I let the Torah educate me. Now, I know some here like to see themselves in a messianic light, but Jewschool is merely an eclectic collection of Jews with interesting things to say – some even have the spine to defend their beliefs. Which brings us to the final gem of mental laziness…
    Victor, why do you come here?
    Certainly NOT to reinforce my preconceived bias in a “preaching to the choir” soundchamber of irrelevance. Oh, David… honestly, juvenile.

  7. I’m not Victor, but I also see a potential contradiction in:
    ” We welcome people who identify in a diversity of ways. This will be an antizionist, nonzionist, diasporist, queer and trans positive space.”
    I always understand queer-positive to mean “welcoming of Queer people”. Same with trans-positive.
    Is “antizionist-positive” the same thing? As in, are Zionists welcome too, the same way Heteros/cis-gender types are welcome in Queer-positive spaces?
    Since Queer is a gender/sexual identity, and Antizionist a political belief, I can imagine them playing out differently.

  8. Victor must be bored. Some other progressive site must be slow today.
    I don’t see how creating an open and welcoming sacred space for all persuations at this Yom Kippur retreat is so threatening to Victor.
    Oh, and Victor: No more attacks on people’s character or intelligence. If you can’t play respectfully, then you’re going to be banned and nobody here will miss you.

  9. Still don’t know what PFJ means. Although I do know what disingenuous means, a word that I suspect some other commenters to this post might want to look up.

  10. It’s been a while since I’ve been commenting here, so i don’t know what sort of trouble victor has stirred up in the past, and while he has done a good job of pissing everyone off, and the way he did it was rude, and insulting, the question that I will interpret as standing behind victor’s original comment I believe is valid. That is, “Will there be space for Jews who don’t identify in one of the four ways you listed?”
    The Yom Kippur service begins, even before Kol Nidre, with the lifting, temporarily, of all bans the community has placed on people. That means, no matter how dispicable a person we think you are, no matter how evil the crimes you have committed – on Yom Kippur you are welcome in our community. Now, I know full well, that even when we speak these words, in many shuls we don’t live up to their meaning. Synagogues are often a place of exclusion, even on Yom Kippur for many groups – including those listed in the post above. However, I think its prudent to always question how we react. Do we create equally eclusie and limitng spaces for those on the outside, or do we try and forge new communities that will correct the crimes committed against us. Can we have spaces that are both queer and straight, where Zionists and anti-zionists can meet? And, more challenging, on Yom Kippur, can we let even the egregious sinners be part of our community? Is there space not just for those who are straight, but for the homophobes as well? Even as we may feel challenged to welcome in those who support Israel, could we even welcome, and treat as part of our community, just for one day, those we consider racist and evil?

  11. Victor-
    i didn’t called you racist, sexist, or homophobic. But congratulations on once again jumping the gun. I’ll take your insult with a grain of salt.

  12. Josh, you’re being very very nice to Victor, for which you definitely earn points, but there are people who should be at least a bit contrite about their actions/beliefs before we let them into the synagogue. You can’t be a plain avaryan to be released from the Herem you’re in: the assumption is that you’re contrite. At least a bit.

  13. David, I’m happy to respond to the dialogue taking place here. While I’m involved in promoting this event (and I will certainly be there), I did not write the language for the publicity materials, nor am I actually planning the workshops or t’filah. So, take my response as mine alone, and not as speaking for the planning body.
    Josh, Thanks for your thoughtful post. The answer, of course, is that yes, this is a Jewish event and Jews of all stripes and identities are welcome. That said, I want to address Chillul Who’s question, which will inevitably lead to some narrowing of the community.
    First, there is no space that is norm-neutral. Let’s think about an Orthodox shul on Yom Kippor. I’m sure that anyone in the congregation will claim that all Jews are welcome. And on some level they would be correct. And yet, if an egalitarian Jew came in, and demanded the inclusion of women or mixed seating, he or she would quickly find him or herself less welcome.
    There is a “welcoming” that says, “please, come into our space,” and a welcoming that says, “please, make yourself at home here, change the curtains (on the mechitzah perhaps) if you need.”
    Not only is no space free of social norms, but in the Jewish world as a whole (as in society at large), some norms are taken for granted. If you went to a random Conservative shul on Yom Kippor, while all may be welcome, and there will likely be a diversity of folks in attendance, you can safely bet that the basic culture of that shul will be hetro-normative, and that it will also be Zionist.
    As some of you may know from experience, finding a shul that embodies other norms is rather difficult. Thus an antizionist, nonzionist, diasporist, queer and trans positive space is saying, we will be constructing a space with a particular (and in the Jewish world rather unusual) normative bent. But of course, like almost any shul, we welcome people who do not affirmatively identity in those ways.
    Does this reach Josh’s deepest ethical hopes when he asks, “Do we create equally exclusive and limiting spaces for those on the outside, or do we try and forge new communities that will correct the crimes committed against us.”? No. But for what I see as good reasons. First, I’m not sure what a totally non-exclusive space would look like? Or, if it were created if it would speak to people’s religious needs (which are strongly connected to whatever culture/identity/denomination they claim)? Second, and perhaps most importantly, I’m not sure it’s the outsider’s job to create those spaces. In that scenario regular synagogues continue to be hetro-normative, but when queers create religious space they need to make sure it is not queer normative.
    This is an old question about black nationalism or lesbian separatism. Sometimes its useful to create minority identified spaces, and sometimes its not useful. Whether we think it is right or wrong has a lot to do with the kind of space it is (Think about how Hillel a different kind of space than a small havurah) and how we understand power (lilly-white frats may be an anathama, but we may accept traditionally black fraternities [at least reguarding race, the gender questions are another story]).
    So, the bottom line is that everyone is not only invited but encouraged to attend. If you’ve never been in a space where the mainstream norms have been inverted, you are in for a treat. If you come willing to learn, you will have a wonderful time.

  14. Thanks CoA! I think the deeper question that was lurking for me was “This looks fascinating. Would I be welcome there?”
    While I couldn’t actually attend because it’s frickin far away and the schedule doesn’t seem to match the heavenly bodies that tell me when to start/stop fasting, it would have been nice to think I *could* have.
    And as someone with much more “conventional” views on Zionism, I’d want to make sure that I (or those like me) wouldn’t be excoriated or shunned, despite the oodles of Queer points I bring with me.

  15. DAMW — a card-carrying Diasporist might do a better job than I, but as I understand it, “Diasporism” is the ideology that the most fertile ground for Jewish existence is in the Diaspora, and not in Israel.
    Sometimes this goes along with a belief that having a nation-state is particularly detrimental to Jewish values and/or safety.
    Sometimes it simply seeks to exphasize the accomplishments and diversity of Diaspora Jews and Diasporic Jewish civilization in the face of Israeli cultural chauvinism.

  16. Amit – I hear what you are saying. I think that that contrition does not normally need to be stated, because the synagogue embodies certain norms. So, when the person under cherem returns to the synagogue, their very act of coming and affiliating speaks to remorse. Could we establish a parallel here? If we were in a clearly LGBT friendly synagogue for example, such as CBST, could we then welcome n the homophobe on Yom Kippur? Would the very fact that that person wants to pray with us, even if they will not renounce their fears or hatreds, be an act of contrition that would warrant their inclusion? Similarly, what aught that inclusion look like? In the classical synagogue, the actions of the sinners is never condoned, but merely accepted, in acknowledgement that we are all sinners. Perhaps a similar statement at the beginning of a service as Chorus of Apes could be powerful. Some little statement, recognizing that we all hate, that we all have faults, that we all make it difficult for people to publicly act as they want to, and that we all oppress others from time to time, might help out a lot.

  17. Josh, I hear what you’re saying, but why single out the outsiders’ services for such a statement? Shouldn’t all our services begin that way? Oh, wait, they do – that’s what Kol Nidrei is about. But there’s a value in reciting it in one’s one words, in one’s own language.

  18. Look at that, an intelligent response. Thank you, CoA.
    For what it’s worth to those who care, I looked into the organizers. They’re well meaning do-gooders with about a decade in anti-Israel activism, but nothing too offensive. They claim their funding is mostly from Jewish sources and I couldn’t find anything to say otherwise, although they have some superficial links to CAIR and local muslim associations. Bottom line, they’re not on anyone’s radar, on either side.
    As KFJ said…
    I don’t see how creating an open and welcoming sacred space for all persuations at this Yom Kippur retreat is so threatening to Victor.
    Without rehashing the duplicity of claiming that all are welcome and then strictly defining who will attend… I see nothing to threaten my sensibilities. Carry on.

  19. Um… Thanks victor… I guess.. I actually thinks lots of the posts here have been intelligent. I also don’t particularly need your hechsher, but, I guess, thanks for that as well.
    I don’t think the term “anti-israel” is all that useful. Again, I will not speak for the organizers, but I think of myself as pro-liberal equality and democracy. Israel is a country. You can only be pro or anti israel if you think about politics as a soccer match. If, on the other hand, you think about politics as the application of certain principles you can be pro or anti Zionist or pro or anti equality but not pro or anti israel.

  20. Nice link BZ. It really does a good job addressing the issues at hand reguarding “pro-israelism” (I cannot even believe we have invented such a phrase.). What the fuck is “israelism”, or “Americanism” for that matter?

  21. CW – the sketch is supposed to lampoon the various Palestinian factions in particular, and the tendency of the radical left to get all caught up in talking about nonsense.

  22. CoA writes:
    I’m not sure it’s the outsider’s job to create those spaces. In that scenario regular synagogues continue to be hetro-normative, but when queers create religious space they need to make sure it is not queer normative.
    It’s the Sotomayor hearings all over again!

  23. In a separate question, though, I’m not sure I get the connection between Yom Kippur and the occupation. This event is likely to attract people who are not personally responsible for the occupation, and therefore have nothing to individually atone for in this department.

  24. BZ, I think there is a sizable population of Jews who do not feel comfortable going to synagogue because of their Israel politics. They go to pray, to find spiritual meaning, and instead get derailed by the inevitable sermon that’s about ISRAEL, how we all must be 100% behind everything Israel does, etc. So while Yom Kippur doesn’t have a clear connection to Israel/occupation, I think this is a way of saying folks can daven there and not worry about the dvar Torah being about “pro-Israelism.”

  25. Great link, BZ.
    and I like the term “pro-Israelism”. It concisely expresses the meaning “the ideology of always cheerleading anything connected to Israel, no matter what.”
    and finally, TWJ, if I had to listen to a drasha about Israeli politics on YOM KIPUR i’d fly out of my seat, even if it was all moderate-lefty like me. What the hell? That would be even worse than the time I heard a Rosh Hashana drasha that went on for half an hour about technicalities in the use of Shofars on Shabbat. Technically topical I guess, but irksomely pointless!

    1. CW-
      It’s shockingly popular, probably because that’s the time to reach the most Jews (though maybe if they weren’t so turned off by Yom Kippur they’d come back at other times of the year too). See also sermons about why it’s important to support the synagogue.

  26. BZ, yes I agree with TWJ, but I also think that there is a topical connection. We say vidui in the plural, in part because we do take communal responsibility for creating or enabling sin. Additionally, I think I do
    have some responsibility for the occupation. As part of the broader Zionist enterprise, it’s conducted in the name of my “security”, and even more when in israel I take part in the privaledges generated by occupation. To the extent that I am part of an American Jewish community, and a global Jewish community, that has generally supported the practices and ideology that produces both the occupation and the maintenence of israel as an ethno-nationalist state, I am responsible.

  27. Maybe we should offer a scholarship or a grant to rabbis who pledge to talk about atonement on the day of atonement. You could get a Jewschool-emblazoned tallis bag or something.

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