Episode 246: Priestessing Priestesses - Keshira HaLev Fife
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There's this concept in the Tomlin called had drawn When you reach the end of a chapter, you say we will return to you and that's how I've been feeling at the end of a lot of these series that we've been doing because we're only starting to scratch the surface we as a podcast, you're going to keep returning to these subjects. When we've kind of opened it up as a series whether that's through doing another series or just here and there, and we should see these all as a whole series that's taking place over time we're going to organize things that way on our website but in any event, this is the last interview as part of this series on women, the question of feminism and its impact on the past present and future of Judaism and so today we're actually going to close a mini loop in this series because we talked a few weeks ago to Jill Hammer and Ashir the founders of. The Hebrew Priestess Institute, which is one of these organizations that really incredible in some of its reverberations including our interview last week with L. Ken Iraq who has re gender. Torah and so we thought we would talk to somebody who went through that priestess training program and one could say is now representative of the next generation in the priestess movement even as there is another generation coming up and of course, many more to follow our guest today. Kashira, faith is the Oregano. Kayla, which means strictly speaking community weaver of coconut. He preached this institute. She describes herself as a proud Jewish women of color who sprinkles sparkles, disrupts, expectations, and offers blessings wherever she goes in service to the divine to their bright and benevolent ancestors and to those who are coming up after her she as a community weaver reclaiming should practices in ways that are. Resonant and relevant in the modern day in addition to her work at Kohana COSCIA. Faith is the founder and leader of Cashier Pittsburgh and more broadly dominatrix a prayer leader life cycle ceremony officiant ritual Creator ix litter gist songstress, and public speaker. She has lived in both the United States and Australia where she is a dual citizen and now she lives in. Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. She was ordained as a coconut, a Hebrew priestess in July of two thousand seventeen and she studied social history and public policy and management at Carnegie Mellon University in her hometown of Pittsburgh so because your faith welcome to. Judaism unbounded. So great to have you so wonderful to be here with you both. I'd love to hear a little bit about story of how you became a Kohana because we talk to Joe, Hammer and sheer, and we heard about the founding of this new institute this new way of being a Jewish leader and I think in some ways, this is the first time that we have an opportunity to talk to the founders of something new and then to somebody who joined it. When I was five years old and began kindergarten at circle time we were asked to stand up and say what we wanted to be when we grew up and at that time frame of reference is a little smaller than it is now. So I stood up and I said I wanted to be a rabbi. And I was always encouraged in my Jewish practice and Jewish involvement I wasn't always encouraged to pursue a rabbinical path. Fast forward to two thousand eleven I spent most of that year on well in treatment in recovery, and while I was recovering laying around looking out the window using about why young people fall ill, what came to me so strongly was that when I regain my strength and wellness to pursue a life of service and it came through really strongly to revisit this long-standing calling desire. And so at that time I was living in Australia I came back to the United States to check out some rabbinical programs and one of the programs was Aleph the Alliance for Jewish renewal and I found myself at home immediately within the renewal context and yet I still had lingering questions about the rabbinic ordination path. While I was there at the biennial gathering of renewal folks, I met a couple of people who were beginning something called Cohen. I had never heard of it before I went back to my roots and I googled it and was deeply intrigued and I can remember I sent the link to my love who was still in Australia and I said to him. What do you think about this program if I applied and was accepted? Would it be doable for me to participate because it's seven retreats over three years I was living in Sydney it was happening. Isabella. Freedman. And he wrote back immediately and he said you were born for this. So I applied and the rest is history still being made. Can you talk a little bit about why you and perhaps why other people who have ended up going through the Kohana program why they make the decision to do to become a Kohana and not to become a rabbi? I'm particularly curious about the distinction between the two we talked with Joe Hammer and Tadjoura about it again in theory I'm also curious about the practicality of it. I've been intrigued from the very beginning about. This idea of there being alternatives to being rabbi a lot of people feel like if they are really into Judaism and WanNa do something. Then really their options are to go to rabbinical school or to get a PhD in Jewish studies and so I'm so thrilled that there are other alternatives and want there to be more. But can you talk about how people assess those options in what draws them to becoming a Kohana? It might not be exactly the right metaphor but I'll say if you've ever woken up with stiff neck, sometimes you need a chiropractor and sometimes you need a massage therapist there to perfectly legitimate routes to take when looking for healing or realignment and different folks need different than. When I arrived to, Hanni-. It awakened in me a knowingness and a remembering that wasn't cognitive. That the rhythms of prayer the ways of ritualized. The questions that we were exploring the willingness for questions to be asked opened up something that had been previously unknown and unforeseen by me. To the question of why. People choose this path and not a rabbinic path I think it's important. To step back a little bit. And widen the frame. So on one hand, the Jewish world is as it is today because of rabbinical schools and. Programs and all of the working mechanisms that have created for better or worse landscape as we know it. And there's also in the Tora wildfire that which surrounds the letters that we read. And the willingness to back up and look at a wider frame and say okay What is absent? What is missing which voices are missing? What yearnings do we have? That are not met by the current state of things and how might we respond to those not only by innovating and bringing things into the present moment but by looking back far enough to remember that which has been forgotten. I want to dive into what you said about having a stiff neck. I think about a stiff neck a lot because in Bible you know it says that the Israelites wandering around in the desert were stiff necked. and. Even. On the High Holidays, there's liturgy when we're apologizing for whatever set of sins says she she knew or if we were stiff necked and I like, I always look at that in the liturgy and I'm like I don't know if that's a sin like I like being stiff I. Think it's kind of it's kind of a worthwhile thing to have what I associate with a stiff neck to have a sense of I, Dunno stubbornness. But not in the words we have our. Negatively inflicted to have like a commitment to a set of ideal such that you would stand your ground such that you would have a stiff neck when they're pushed and it's not that I want everybody to be like the Israelites in the desert stretching all the time. But like I, do think there's a power there and I guess I'd I'd Kinda connect that I mean maybe you can correctly or you can give your take on this I, feel like the people I'm meeting Cohen. Are People who in the positive in the positive sense I mean not in the negative sense have kind of stiff neck like they could have become rabbis but like there's a sense Senate like Nah, that's not quite it like I'm GonNa do a different leadership role. I'm going be Kohana and that's GonNa be a lesser role. It's GonNa be a different role and I, guess I'm curious to hear from you like does that land well here the stiff necked idea they would you push back is at a different personality trait or something. How do individual cohort and maybe you relate to that conception I love this question I want a new onset a little bit when someone wakes up with a stick, a stiff neck and. goes to a chiropractor or massage therapist. Presumably, they're looking for relief from the stiffness it's causing. Pain, and typically what happens from my own experience is that it limits my range of motion on and my ability to move freely. And to see in multiple directions by moving moving my neck with ease and I think the thing that you're describing which I will validate for. Sure. Is Not a sense of stiffed stiff neck Sorry. I don't know if that is a symptom of a stiff neck. It's more of a function of deep-rooted -ness of deep knowingness of who we are and what we're about of connection to ancestoral lineages lineage is that have undergone some healing work? And to the contrary of stiff neck. A fluidity of movements and agility that allows us to turn our heads even more than we might normally I'm to see. Where are there places that people or ideas have been unseen or perhaps even pushed away so that they not be seen. I'm this is. A point of pride for me that the hallmark of a Kohana is someone who is willing to bring deep presence to a situation and perception of all that needs to be perceived not only what's on the page or sometimes not only what's told the story I'm but to listen more deeply to read to think critically and also to know that our knowingness doesn't always have to just be from the neck off. Some of the institutions and mainstream. Doing a good job. Of Welcoming people of Color Queer Folks Disabled, folks other marginalized communities that they've missed the boat. The step forward is not to be more welcoming. It's to realize that White Ashkenazi Jews don't actually own Judaism it's not actually there's to discern. And I think that Kohana as an institution and the people that are drawn to Kohana that's hold that frame of Judaism we still hold sacred so much about Judaism and Jewish practice, and yet there is a sense that. My definition of tradition, which Kohana Shamir Chandler likes to remind us is nothing more than what a few generations our family has done. The most traditional thing about Judaism is constantly changing. I'm that we don't get to define where the parameters are. That's a collective job and also an individual relationship with the divine. Talking a lot lately with a number of different folks about what a rabbi is and also what rabbi should be. Those are not always the same question rabbis in terms of what we want them to be is not always the same as what they are descriptively today. and. Something fascinating happened in one of the conversation something I loved which was I think when you are Kohana and people are trying to get a sense of what you do who you are as a Co hennent often folks like you and we've done this too. It's like Well, we answer like in relationship to Rabbi Rabbi is the thing that people have heard of and no, and then like Kohana does a thing that's also a Jewish leadership role but a different one. So you compare contrast rectangle square those two roles. What happened was I was talking with somebody about what a is and I asked a question that I've asked a lot of people, which is if rabbi ing were a verb if to rabbi were verb, what would it mean like what would what does it mean to rabbis someone and I'm like genuinely interested in what people think they'd say to that and the answer was awesome because it started with I'm not sure but I'm reminded of the idea of practicing. Kohana this was not somebody who themselves. Kohana. Who is was not somebody who identifies as a woman and so I was just like Oh my God. We've we've taken a positive step enough that somebody out there would be asked a question about rabbi and use a frame of reference of. Of Priestess, which is like a pretty new role and like, wow, we've reached a stage in Jewish civilization where that's a recognizable look. It's not that everybody knows what it is. It's not that everybody knows what priestesses but like we've reached a stage where like if you're kind of. In, the if you're somebody like me who works for Jewish organizations, like you can assume that people know what it is, and even in this case, what practicing is to a certain extent and then the answer went were the answer when it was very beautiful. What is it to go? Head it? What is it to priestess? It's it's a comparable question to who is go Hannett which we've already started to get it right but I think it's also subtly different what is practicing and how do people do it Words originate as verbs they are relational. By nature they become now notified they become things and we sometimes forget their relation. -ality. So I love that with him, Kohana priest sing is an active verb and means many things. In some cases we joke that you can use the verb practicing to really mean anything if you need someone to clean up a room, you could say it will be an wonderful act of priests assessing to create sacred space here practicing in some ways could be synonymous with tending. But I mean tending in the highest form and the the thing that underlies it is that it's done on behalf of sacredness sweeping the floor could in fact, be an act of sacredness clearing a room and creating the kind of context for people to come in and pray. Priest. To sing could also be sitting by the bedside of someone who needs comfort or companionship. And bringing full presence to the situation. Priests Kissing might mean drawing not sign and getting out on the street in inactive deeply convicted practicing raising are signs raising our voices. For Justice and on behalf of marginalized. One of the exercises of the priestess receiving Smith is to be in deep reflection conversation and writing in order to derive a priestess invocation to define for each one of us what does practicing mean for us and how are we committed to ending the world? Can you talk some about the kinds of? Work that casino do after they get their ordination and also are there ways in which you imagine that over time that will and ought to change? Are there are there fantasies that you have about the kind of work that note will do in the Jewish world? We have folks who had jobs before and have the same jobs after. And yet the way they do the job is fundamentally different because of the experience and the skills. That they've acquired as part of Kohana I like to tell prospective students that if you've done a university degree, you will not find Kohana necessarily to be more rigorous than that. However, Kohana spiritually rigorous I'll be gentle and say it invites. US, to reflect upon long held beliefs and practices not to necessarily unravel and let them go. But to bring critical analysis to wire, we doing these things. What are we doing? Are. They resonant and relevance in the present moments are they in service and? How might they be brought into greater alignment with? Our divine connection with our relationship to the earth and with our values as community makers. In one way you could say a person who was previously working in corporate field out working as a teacher as a nurse, an artist, a healer, a musician. Those. Folks may come into Kohana out of Kohana and their job title. Might. Not. Change. I would say the depth of which they fulfil their role in the richness they bring will almost certainly changed for others of us. Kohana is a pathway to restructuring the way that we live I tell people that I'm a fulltime priestess that translates into working on multiple projects in multiple ways, and in all cases I, bring my skills and presence as a priestess to task, and there is no expectation within Kohana people either will or won't change their vocation. There is only the prayer and blessing that the way that we move through the world be fundamentally changed. So I remember meeting you a few times. I don't even remember where honestly maybe you do I remember a number of years ago like we met digitally this was before you know everything Jewish. was digital but like we encountered each other in various digital spaces and in various sort of renewal spaces may be renewal being the denomination that I'm being into rabbi through and that you mentioned going to the biennial gathering for. And I say I bring that up to say like you're much more than like holder of position executive director, of Cohen. And I actually, I noticed on your on your bio on your website, you describe yourself as executive director of Kohana, but you render it in Hebrew or rugged. He'll which I thought was a really cool move mean honestly, it matters less to me precisely how you translate arrogate Kapila which you know roughly you're putting his executive director but more that you're layering this word that people could hear as kind of a no stale it's not that executive directors are like boring terrible positions, but I think people could hear it as like that's like an administrative task. There's there's the there's the people doing sort of spiritual work often in synagogues for example, I mean there's there's the clergy on the one hand. and. Then there's the executive director or there's the the administrative folks and I think there's a way in which implicitly are sort of questioning that and saying others spiritual work here I'm going to render it in Hebrew and layer it with some specialness and so I'm interested in that. But I'm not just interested in that I'm interested in the ways that who you are what? You do is not just Kohana. It is also all these other things that we've encountered each other through and one if this is a good starting point is that I know you've been the cherished leader of a group called share. It's funny because it's so close to your name Sheera but cashier fellows in an olive in the Jewish Renewal Movement this group of really awesome. Emerging. JEWISH PEOPLE IN I duNno twenties and thirties who are doing things gathering in a cohort. But really that's just a starting point. I'm curious how you would conceptualize what you do how you priestess beyond just through the role you have as. He lies executive director at. First I want to say that the title rugged could he la is my role and we to the courteous thing which is trying to translate that into something that will be understood in the wider world or gets he Lamin's weaver of community, and that is the truest naming of the role that I play for. A. One of my favorite namings was given to me by students who call me the priests s who priestesses the priestesses, and this is a role of holding a wide container for everything that's happening, and the primary thing that I do is kind of zoom zoom out which is to hold the wide container and think about the organization and then zoom into the individual intend the experienced. Organizations are just the sum total of their people. and. So we need to balance what does it mean as an organization to grow and thrive and what is it mean to to well tend are people. I had a realization a few years ago. which was that as Kohana. I would receive Smith and be able to go out into the world and do some job some role tending some community and what became apparent pretty quickly is that my skill set could best be used to end able lots of other people to go out and do the same. I could certainly have an impact in a community and I'd like to think that I have impact in various communities in which I serve. And there's something also deeply gratifying. About being able to do this in ways that support others in there are NASA in their livelihood finding their right path being canyon creating community context in which people can connect and deepen enhance their experiences of life and the olive cashier fellowship which you name it is a great example of this. I came into this role as program director at a time when I was given a structure for fellowship, which was comprised of an opening and closing Shalva ton or Shabazz's weekend gathering. With webinars between and sometime between that. Of. A ton and now. A global pandemic took hold and we had to really adapt to meet the moments. In. Some ways the fellows have thrived because we've really deepened, what does it mean to be part of a fellowship cohorts to do the spiritual reflection work together in a way that's consistent and without geography as a barrier to connection it's been gratifying and also fun and inspiring to be a traveler with this group of eighteen fellows who have really been through a lot together. This year I'm excited that we've just launched applications for the next cohort, and in addition to bringing in that cohort will also be holding alumni aren't alumni. Body so that folks can matriculate become part of something greater that it's not just a transformational experience and then people are blessed on their way but that they continue to be part of the movements and part of a community. Today I'm clearly in like a word zone I very consistently in a word zone of thinking about how words sound and how they play together. But I just heard you say something you know inwards that struck me deeply and I got to go there. So you said alumni or alumni X. which eight. That's a fascinating thing because like alumni is like a Latin ending right and then alumni x is I, guess it's still like Latin any alumni is a gender neutral ending that's often used for. Latin. X as an adjective and more and more for other kinds of adjectives to describe folks who are non binary or just to as an umbrella term for folks of many genders so that we're not assuming all people are male which I don't know the Latin but I, think alumni is like a masculine you're nodding. So alumnis I think is like a masculine Latin ending, which is not a great thing to group a bunch of people who are not necessarily mail into that. Okay. So Alumni. Let's talk about Cohen, as an amazing awesome institution that I think has been really thoughtful about how we think about this roll which it's net. It's consciously created as that at being a feminine ending in Hebrew, differentiating it from cocaine a masculine role in in the Bible and. Even, in later iterations of Judaism, but there's also a way in which in recent years maybe maybe even farther back I, don't know. You've started to understand yourselves not only as being an organization for women, but also for folks who are non binary I love to hear. Is that something where like programming your curriculum has really consciously shifted X. Y. or Z.. Or is it just like? Well, we actually we're going about things in a way that didn't require such active shifts. It was like how how has that been for your organization and maybe to the extent you want to do this to like. How would we think more broadly beyond just Cohen as Jewish community about creating spaces that may have once been women's spaces but are now becoming women and non binary spaces. That I distinction that's useful to make Is that Kohana as an institution as a community. And as a movement, we could focus on the water we doing and we could focus on the WHO's doing the doing. and. In my view in order to comprise, we need to balance those things. So that is to say the program did start out with the naming and continues to hold the naming Kohana, which is feminized version of the Word Cohen. And part of that is a reclamation. We know that there were Cohen notes. In Times past and we could be polite and say perhaps they've been forgotten I. Think more realistic would be to say that they have been erased were redacted. There's necessity to do the reclaiming. At the time that Kohana was founded. This was a bold big claim. I think that's hair and Jill said in the podcast that they recorded with you, they are prepared to be accused of heresy. It's now fifteen years later. And there is a you to teaching which says that where there is doubts. About what to do? Look out on the street and see what the people are doing. So coordinates is in a moment now. In some ways we're catching up to the naming of what's going on on the street. Are, applicants over time have become more diverse. We take this as a testament to doing the kind of work that is creating the world as we wish it to be. It's incumbent upon us to respond to that and be responsive in our leadership. The other thing that's worth naming is that Kohana is a three year program. So much can change over three years including people's own understanding of themselves particularly when they're doing intensive spiritual and reflective work. So as a person and as a community that values relationship before task. We always ask questions to grapple with and be with from a heart centered and curious place and where there is resistance what might need to be healed in order for us to show up. Evermore. To doing the work that we're called to do. I'm thinking about another another scene from the Talmud that been a lappy and I talk about on our show that we do call the oral Tom. I come in. I'm coming to think more and more that it's one of the most important scenes in the entire, Tomlin maybe in its own time and certainly for ours where where at this moment where the head of the yeshiva the head of the Rabbinic School in the old days the early days have been Judaism Rub and Gabrielle is thrown out of his position as a result of that they they. Remove the guards from the gates to the House of study and these people flood in who were being kept out for whatever reason before that's an important moment. But the really important moment is I think the first thing they do is they take up a question about somebody who wants to become Jewish, who is from the AMMONITES, which was another people which the Torah explicitly says they may not become Jewish. They, they may not ever join the community of Israel and they take up this question whether this person can join according to the Torah. The answer would be clear. No, and they conclude that the answer is yes and so meaning that what happens when you start to let people in who were being kept out is the first thing they do is let more people in and for some people. That's something. To be afraid of and for other people that something to be very inspired by for me, it's something to be inspired by the reason I bring that up is because you said something early on where we were talking about Kohana, which after all is founded to be an organization for initially for women and you said something in reflecting about it that really the big idea here is that it's not about. Being. Invading including of people it's about saying that Ashkenazi Away Dash is ages don't own Judaism and it struck me that that that was happening naturally right that in organization that sort of created to be built around the experience of those whose for whom Judaism was not built around their experience previously are. Up The mantle of saying, how do we let more people in how do we really expand the understanding of what Judaism is beyond gender? and. So I love to go even further than Lexus question and ask you to reflect a little bit about whether it's about Kohana or whether it's about other phenomena that you see happening. Jewish. World Today I. Mean I think about all the LGBT organizations which are also doing Not, only are they not only? Are they interested in letting more people in you know and then being liberals? Spaces for other people but. A. Lot of people who who were not connecting to. Existing Jewish organizations find what those organizations are doing to be very attractive, and then it's then it's a concern because there's a lot of you know straight white men that WANNA come to this lgbt organization. They say, wait a second it's not really what it's about you know, and so how do we also manage that? What is created by those who had previously been marginalized is often just gotTa gravitational attraction because it's it's right. You know. It's deeply resonant and not only for that particular group. Then it potentially unleashes something bigger but but you know I kind of feel a little bit jealous. If things like Kohana because I feel like I also want to not become a rabbi but to have something that I can be and there isn't really that much out there you know. So I mean, maybe we'll create it but I'm still curious about how you how you think about that. I think the Talmudic story that you point to illustrates that we can understand sacred texts to be prescriptive or descriptive. And, I understand it to be descriptive. It was describing who was keeping who out at the time. And then what happens is that if it serves those in power to keep it that way, then suddenly it becomes instructive or prescriptive and get stuck like that. We're trying to shift that paradigm or trying to unravel some of that. because. So many of us have been on the receiving end of the slamming gates. And that connects to the latter part of what you said, which is that these organizations who are doing this laboratory work suddenly become attractive for various reasons. Part of the healing that's needed. is in the willingness to allow space for those that have been on the margins to really move to the center. I have a revered teacher Stephen Jenkinson teaches that. The best way to love mountain is not to walk on it. That is to say that if you truly. Love what you're seeing. By all means come and pray with US comments celebrate with us. Allow yourself to be led by us so that we can drive. because. Otherwise, what happens is that? The Care and love ends up smothering or cannibalizing that which we claim to love. My own understanding of Judaism, and perhaps what goes awry within the wider structure is that I don't need somebody to validate my I never have. And yet for decades, other people implicitly insisted that idea. And I'm speaking from the I but I mean broadly, this is the experience of many marginalized. I teach a class called on solid ground fundamentals of Judaism. and. The class is roughly akin to a one. Oh one what might you need to know about Judaism in order to participate? And also brings in an anti oppressive Lens. So I kind of flipped back and forth saying traditionally or in the mainstream here's how it goes and here are some questions for consideration before we just buy into that paradigm. A simple example of this that I would offer recognizing that this will not jive in some Jewish circles is that if I ask rabbi, how do I eat? Jewish -ly. I'm likely to be asked what am I eating and then told the BRASA the blessing to save prior to eating whatever that thing is. I rather think that if I'm a Jewish person eating in alignment with my values consistent with. Deep consideration for animal rights for the Earth. The level of conversation I'm having when I eat what I was doing while preparing the food who I'm welcoming at my table. I'm inherently eating Jewish -ly whether I've set a or not. I, teach my students that saying elevates the act of eating and brings more sacredness on holiness. But if you've eaten without saying abruptly, it doesn't invalidate your Judaism. And yet I cannot tell you how many people approach me and say I'm Jewish Butts and then insert whatever thing. Makes them feel lesser than their perception of how quote Unquote Real, Jus or more observant Jews do it. This is not only a disservice to the individual, but it's a disservice to the collective. It makes me wonder some times after all the people are done invalidating their Judaism, who's left to actually draw those parameters and say, this is how it should be. Well, it feels like there. There are two questions right? There's like you say who has left eye something that I think I've been saying I think we've both been saying for a long time that when you think about. Who really feels super comfortable in their in their approach to Judaism and who is sort of making all the rules that is making everybody feel bad. It's actually a tiny minority of Jews and the question is. How to get that silent majority to not see themselves as a silent majority of Jews but actually see themselves as a silent majority of good Jews who have an alternative way of being Jewish. The problem is it's like Anna Karenina. All unhappy families are unhappy in different ways. You know how can we get the unhappy families to band together even though they're unhappy for different reasons and that that I feel like part of the project and I feel like part of the project is people like you and me I think who I also feel like I've never felt my own Judaism was invalid but most people like me. Do, feel that way and most people like you do you feel that way and so the question is those of us who for whatever reason of like birth of of of a certain way we grew up of some kind of something that's like in here in our personalities that happened not to feel that way what what is it that we can do to help others who don't have that inborn trait to feel like? No no no, you're. You're approach really is valid. You are you really are valid. Do you do you have particular things that you do on that score thoughts that you imagine we should be doing? A bigger framing issue I think we've talked about this a little bit in the past and it references. My favorite episode within lappy talking about institutional crash and the various options option three person carrying. The jewels of tradition forward while integrating them with what's happening now. I've long been a believer that are institutions even though their strength in numbers. Rana risk when they get to big. I've been predicting for some time that will eventually end up with stables again. For some of the reasons that you name, it's Ni- impossible to gather the silent majority. And get agreement on really anything but in small groups and Kohana. Is, one of those small groups where we find our people where we find our kindreds and there's a sense of being at home. In our practice in our conventions. In our ways of life and maybe. A good way forward would be to encourage and seed more of these communities to strengthen themselves so that the people inside them can thrive that seems to be a stronger proposition than trying to reform everybody into how we might otherwise be. So it's really easy with an organization as layered as go hennent to focus on for lack of a better term like the content of it like the law of the questions we've done the WHO is a Kohana at the what is practicing? I'm interested in the structure thing of Kohana that is not unique to go with that I. Think you'd bring an interesting lens to in the pandemic and even before but especially in the pandemic mic, Dan and I have been thinking a lot about not just digital Judaism not just like the fact that Judaism is living digitally even more now than it was pre pandemic but like. What. That means furred geography for Jewish geography? What does it mean to even live in like one quote unquote Jewish community I live. In Providence, Rhode Island I live in that Jewish community like to what extent does that mean anything right now when I can access every synagogue on the planet or anyone that's doing digital service, which is probably over a thousand like what does it? Mean to be in a Jewish community all of those words in quotes and I'm interested in hearing from organizations like cohesion it that already have been Trans Geographic. Dan often talks about how like when you're wandering in the desert the way you figure out what to do is you ask the people that have already been in the desert wandering for a while that's where you learn. Where in that desert wandering time period of Judaism that's one of the core premises of our show. So you're part of this project where you can go on the website and you can see, wow, people have been ordained in like different continents and within the United States, the West Coast, and here's the East Coast and all of those people it's not as if you set up little. Buildings in seventy different cities around the world like they've been doing program that involves like you said, retreats that were they do gather at least pre pandemic. And is largely decentralised, and so I'm curious like what? A sort of user language of descriptive and prescriptive like what is it descriptively to be a Trans Geographic Organization but also for the future of Judaism for the future of the world to some extent what could it be if we actually saw that Trans Geographic nece not as a temporary thing brought to us by pandemic, which it certainly isn't for Kohana. Organizations. But actually a model for moving forward where all those questions of what is Jewish community become knew how would you approach that? was reflecting on this yesterday and thinking about. When we ask the right question we ask a potent question. Sometimes, we receive a response greater than the question we asked and I was talking about this specifically with regards to Kohana because for fourteen years. Kohana community met. Twice a year on the east coast. And for the last. Five. Ish Years twice a year on the west coast and priestesses allies in loved ones were invited to join us for Shabat Four Times A. And in between, we would gather for virtual temple classes as people signed up for them not everybody is in the virtual temple all the time. When the pandemic began the question at hand was, how are we going to weather quarantine when we can't meet in person for our retreats and we began to adapt the retreat structure in order to create an experience we certainly couldn't create the same experience, but we could create a good experience. What arose. Was the awareness that people. Need a urine for connection, and so we begin to Daven. To gather for prayers every Friday night and every Saturday morning show about morning and also to Torah study every week. So. While we were trying to figure out how to salvage a training program that couldn't meet in person the by products of our thinking broadly. Has Strengthened and deepened our community beyond what we thought possible. I. CanNot Tell You how many times in the last seven months I've had a moment where I thought this would not have happened in the normal course of events. That people are able to come to Shiva calls to baby namings to be together to read from time to learn. Not just with people who happened to be down the streets are are part of the same congregation because there's enough showed values for us to be there. But because there is genuine contrition. And There's something really powerful there. When we take geography out of the equation. Suddenly we find ourselves with. People who understand US and who we understand, and that really comes as a result of this continued touch points of people coming together. I was assigned Jewish secular at birth and have grown up to rush non-conforming. I was named at road of Shalom, the Reform Temple of the. Pittsburgh. Platform which began reform Judaism in the United States as a kindergarten I was enrolled in. Sunday. School at tree of life congregation where I grew up at my Mitzvah. Who was married in the chapel and I came to understand only in two thousand four. That Mike. Great great grandfather and his brother were among the founding members of an Orthodox congregation I found out as it was closing. And the reason I found out was because my father and other members of my family were involved in the maintenance of the cemetery which in some ways I have inherited a now managed is Orthodox. Cemetery. The reason I'm sharing this anecdote. Is that the towers from that congregation one of them is now in my possession and was probably not opened much between two thousand four. And the beginning of this pandemic. This Toro now resides in my home. And virtually every week we is Tara and I follow with a cinnamon quill yod while coordinates yet Ila. Or One of our other community members lanes from another location entirely. My ancestors couldn't have imagined that someone who looks like me would be unrolling the Torah let alone doing it on zoom with people across time and space. Receiving. There are many people in the world I'm sure who would shake their heads at the thought of this happening. And yet I can't help but marvel. About the ways in which we are we enlivening. This. Tara has life again is being rolled and read from each week. People are being called to the Torah and receiving blessing. Each And it's only possible because we can do this without regard to geography the technology has allowed and the circumstance has invited us to prioritize and be there to make it happen. It's a beautiful thing that's happening and I want I'm naming it so that I can share at an also so that I can remember what's possible when we really open our hands and let go of all that preconceived notions of how things have to be we make room for what's possible to become. So we didn't plan this when we. scheduled the order of episodes. But as you just spoke to your connection to the tree of life synagogue, in Pittsburgh it occurred to me and I'm sure this is present for you That this week is the site week the anniversary week of that shooting at the tree of life sad building in Pittsburgh and so I'd love to just hear from you. What that? Moment what that anniversary means as it arises this year and to the extent that it connects to other conversation threads that we've had about. Kohana. About the future of. Judaism. Really. Whatever arises as we close out I'd love to hear. Your testimony. I often say that leadership is conferred by followership. or by though willingness to rise to the occasion and I was deeply moved to realize following. October twenty seventh. That, my leadership was conferred as a result of my showing up to ten this community individuals within it families and wider circles. As a function of my presence and service in the days that followed very few people were concerned about my credentials. And it made me realize what a luxury and privilege it is. To, have conversations about who's valid who's legitimate who belongs and who doesn't. That really. If, we were to allow ourselves to get to the heart of the matter and consider the state of our world. We would focus our attention on the ways in which we can work together rather than what separates us. Thank you so much for joining us. This has been a fantastic conversation. Thanks for having me. And thanks so much to all of you out there for listening. We know that this episode ended in a very different way than we normally do by thinking back to that moment two years ago the shooting at the tree of life synagogue building in. Pittsburgh. And reflecting on on what it meant for our guest and we hope that that you will be able to do that to This is an important anniversary October twenty ninth as we released this episode October Twenty Ninth Twenty Twenty and oct twenty seventh eighteen was only two years ago. We hope that all of us can take a second and sit with that moment this week and moving forward. The last thing for this episode is that we always like to encourage folks to be in touch with us with any thoughts questions ideas you have about this episode are other episodes Judaism in general all of it, and you can be in touch with us in a variety of ways I. There's our facebook page Judaism bound second. There are other social media accounts, twitter and instagram Judaism abound third our website Judaism, unbound dot com, and last but not least there are email Stan Judaism unbound dot com, or exit Judaism about dot com. Before we go, we also wanted to say thank you to one of our sponsors support for this episode comes from the Ashman family. In Palo Alto California whose vision is to be the architects of the Jewish Future? The Ottoman family he see is an incubator for new expressions of Jewish identity. It creates innovative Jewish learning celebrations and arts programs that inspire personal connection to people and ideas from across the Jewish world. Learn more at www dot palo alto DC c Dot Org. So thanks so much for listening and with that this has been. Judaism about.