Celebrating Successes, and Untangling a Messy Ball of Yarn!

Here at Kavana, where we strive to "empower each of us to create a meaningful Jewish life and positive Jewish identity," we must create the space in which members of our community can try to unravel these strands. In our pluralistic community, there is no assumption that we all share a single perspective, or that we would all unravel this ball in exactly the same way. However, we are all committed to being "in the work" together, with more nuance and a lot less yelling than what we see playing out in Congress and in the press this week.

Here at Kavana, we find ourselves in the midst of a lovely week -- full of an incredible variety of content-rich programming and meaningful Jewish community experiences. Here are but a few snapshots from recent days:

  • New(ish) Kavana partners gathered to get to know more about our community and to meet each other. (Special thanks to Russ & Mindy Katz for hosting!)
  • 20+ adults bravely broached difficult end-of-life conversations in a safe community context and prepared to state their wishes in legally-binding documents.
  • Kids at Moadon Yeladim concluded their unit on Rabbi Akiva by sharing key teachings ("v'ahavta l'rei'acha kamocha," "Love your neighbor as yourself") and life-lessons (it's never too late to learn something new!) with their parents.
  • At Living Room Learning, adults snacked and said brachot (blessings) and talked about the meaning behind the act of blessing. (Thanks, Lori, for hosting!)

By this evening, the Jewish Emergent Network's Rabbinic Fellows will have arrived in Seattle from around the country for their Kavana site visit. Over the coming days, we look forward to teaching them about our unique Kavana model, including them in our Shabbat services on both Friday night and Saturday morning, and allowing them to peak in on our community in action (from Gan and Havdalah Club to a Board Meeting). We hope you can join us!

We do want to acknowledge, though, that as rosy as this local picture looks, there has been a complicated national backdrop for us as Jews this week. Debate over anti-Semitism has dominated both discussion on Capitol Hill and also news headlines... and being the subject of this kind of debate leaves me feeling squeamish.

This situation is still unfolding and changing, but to us, right now it most feels like tangled ball of yarn, with many different colored strands wound and knotted together. At this point, all we feel prepared to do is to acknowledge the discomfort and name some of these strands:

  • Ilhan Omar's triggering comments about "Benjamins" and "allegiance" to a foreign country, which echo anti-semitic tropes about Jewish money and power, and about the charge of dual-loyalty
  • the long unspeakably traumatic history of anti-semitism, and the presence of real anti-semitism on both the extreme right and left in contemporary American politics
  • the structural racism, misogyny and islamophobia that seem to be adding fuel to the fire around Omar
  • the taboo that persists in the broader American Jewish community around critiquing Israel, or even AIPAC
  • questions about whether/how Palestinian national aspirations play out in Jewish-Muslim relations in America;
  • etc.

This tangled ball is such a mess!

Here at Kavana, where we strive to "empower each of us to create a meaningful Jewish life and positive Jewish identity," we must create the space in which members of our community can try to unravel these strands. In our pluralistic community, there is no assumption that we all share a single perspective, or that we would all unravel this ball in exactly the same way. However, we are all committed to being "in the work" together, with more nuance and a lot less yelling than what we see playing out in Congress and in the press this week.

We are so happy to be engaged in the sacred work of building Jewish community with all of you -- certainly when it feels good and smooth and rewarding, but no less when it feels thorny and heavy. Wishing you a happy second month of Adar (as today is Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet, in this Jewish leap year!),

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum & Rabbi Josh Weisman