I feel compelled to respond to Robbie Gringras’ article on his Friday
night experience at Romemu (“Shabbat Service Here Highlights Israel-Diaspora Gap,” Opinion, May 10).
Gringras complains that the sermon at Romemu was too individual in focus, that it was “a message for a people without a communal identity” and “ever-so-slightly Christian.
” I can only imagine an educated Jew like Gringras must have read the work of the chasidic masters, who turn the national conflicts of the Torah into psychological dilemmas and who see the wanderings of the Israelites as representative of movements within the human soul. Are the chasidic masters, in whose tradition Romemu’s Rabbi David Ingber teaches, “ever-so-slightly Christian”? Since when is the Maggid of Mezritch or the Kotzker Rebbe less “Jewish” than David Ben Gurion?
The Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav engaged in meditative prayer throughout their lives, not to mention ecstatic dancing. How then can Gringras assert that for Jews who are engaging in these practices, “religious ritual isn’t on the map”? He probably also wouldn’t recognize the mystics of Safed who went out to greet the Sabbath queen on the road and dance for her. Perhaps he would also find their devotion “only half-spontaneous.”
Gringras somehow seems to feel that by spending time on universal themes, Rabbi Ingber and Romemu are shirking their collective responsibilities, their calling as a people. Yet it is precisely when we forget that we are individuals on one planet, connected by God’s presence, that we fail in our collective responsibilities. Romemu is a place where I am called to practice my highest ethical ideals, and where I receive spiritual tools to do exactly that. I cannot think of a better way to make me a better member of the Jewish people.
If Gringras truly wants to address the “doubt, fear and fury” of Israelis, he and they may find they have to start with exactly the soul-work that Romemu offers.