Robbie Gringras is not the first person to feel a mix of joy, inspiration, comfort, awkwardness, pain and isolation during a joy-filled Shabbat service (“Shabbat Service Here Highlights Israel-Diaspora Gap,” Opinion, May 10).
What we do with our mixed emotions and with our joy, pain and alienation is often a topic in Rabbi David Ingber’s sermons at Romemu, where I am a congregant. Rabbi Ingber frequently dares us in his sermons and stories to live more honestly in our vulnerability. So I suggest bringing more vulnerability to this discussion about the diaspora-Israel connection.
I can understand why someone from Israel, where realpolitik is so necessary, would feel pain upon encountering an ecstatic and contemplative community like Romemu. I am the child of a Holocaust survivor and Palmach-nik, as well as of a parent who had polio. Some of my earliest encounters with Jewish Renewal’s ecstatic practices left me feeling unsafe, alienated and enraged. I have learned, with the help of the chasidic masters so often quoted at Romemu and by other Renewal teachers, that joy can be a painful challenge and that one’s pain can be a dangerous comfort (and, God forbid, a weapon). Robbie Gringras felt pain at a spirited Romemu service — a pain that I and others could relate to. If he returns, I hope he might talk more about his pain, rather than lashing out at a warm and compassionate community.
Many Israelis have gone to India and Tibet to find contemplative and ecstatic spirituality. Romemu offers a contemplative and ecstatic path within Judaism. I think many Israelis might actually find that to be a good thing.