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Archive for September 29th, 2008

Yoga at Temple?  Who knew!? I wonder if they “Om”…

Take a read of Temple Makes a Leap of Faith, in yesterday’s Boston Globe, by staff writer Steven Rosenberg–a few excerpts follow.

Baruch HaLevi the rabbi at the Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, MA has implemented nontraditional programs into the Saturday morning curriculum – such as meditation, Hebrew prayer chanting, and yoga – while traditional services take place in the synagogue’s main sanctuary…

Congregants say the programs have stimulated their interest in Judaism, and have helped boost membership 20 percent since HaLevi arrived, a significant jump for a synagogue affiliated with the Conservative movement.

But by using unorthodox methods, HaLevi has avoided the trend that has left many Conservative temples struggling for members.

HaLevi’s goal is “to get people to connect with God,” and, on Shabbat, he presents a contemporary potpourri of spirituality that he says people want. It includes a group chant of Hebrew words in his meditation-style “renewal” service, where HaLevi sometimes offers up a dose of Buddhism, words of wisdom from Hasidic luminaries, and poetry from the likes of Emily Dickinson. At the Saturday morning “Torah yoga,” where people stretch and traditional Hebrew prayers play on an iPod, participants merge Sanskrit with Hebrew, reciting together, “Namasté, Shabbat Shalom,”a mix of Sanskrit and Hebrew that wishes for a peaceful Sabbath.

While a few congregants didn’t feel comfortable with the alternative programs and eventually left the congregation, HaLevi insists the changes were necessary to provide an entry point to Jewish prayer.

A few months ago, Larry Groipen, 51, of Swampscott, said he was looking for deeper meaning in life when he walked into the synagogue. Groipen, who now attends the renewal service and Torah yoga, said the Shabbat experience brings a sense of relaxation that he can’t feel during the week.

“I think Judaism is authentic, but the way we’ve portrayed it is flat, thin, and inauthentic. And so we’re offering what I believe is authentic Judaism. It has multiple pathways to experience God in our lives.”-HaLevi

Amen!

-Eliza

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