Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling in the Citizens United Era

A congregational rabbi’s reflections 8 years after the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court ruling changed her world.

FROM THE DIARY OF RABBI HELEN BLOTZ-KUGELMEISTER

It happened on a sunny April afternoon – the day I first met with one of the new kind of congregants who’d been joining our synagogue recently. The truth was I had been nervous about meeting with one of them for more than a casual hello. Our Senior Rabbi, my mentor, Mervin Snubelman, had told me that it was only a matter of time before we had to start counseling and officiating at life cycle events for these new people, and we needed to handle it well.

My assistant had booked the appointment after receiving an email from Bergman-Schneider, Inc., saying that the multi-billion dollar conglomerate would like to meet with me to discuss a personal matter. Ever since the truth that corporations are people was finally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rabbi Snubelman and I had been reflecting on the greatness of America, which despite its many flaws, seems to find a way to extend equality and human rights to wider and wider circles of people over time.

Of course, Snubelman and I talked about how we also had to confront our own toxic upbringings regarding corporate personhood. After all, we had grown up in a society that for centuries had denied that corporations were people. Corporations had lived among us, worked with us, even employed many of us, and yet we had denied them their humanity. Even though Snubelman and I had been supportive of the movement to right this wrong, we still had been infected by a stubborn and structural anti-corporate racism.

Anyway, Snubelman had told me that whenever the first corporate congregant to seek pastoral help would come to me, I should carry on as I would with any other person and not overthink it. Now that Bergman-Schneider, Inc. had asked for an appointment, I had to step up and be the rabbi I had trained to be.

It all started off rather typically. Bergman-Schneider, Inc. came into my office and nervously took a seat. “Rabbi, I need help.”

“What’s on your mind?” I asked.

“I’m about to give birth to another corporation,” Bergman-Schneider, Inc. said. I tried to smile hopefully, but distress clearly registered on Bergman-Schneider, Inc.’s face. My heart was stirred. Bergman-Schneider, Inc. was carrying a heavy burden. Continue reading “Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling in the Citizens United Era”

Al Regel Achat / Judaism on One Foot

I’m thinking about possibly starting an online Jewish education venture that would involve me creating a series of 4 to 6 minute long YouTube videos offering a quickie overview of different Jewish texts, historical figures, etc.  I know that there are already a few things out there, like the fabulous G-dcast, but I think there’s a niche I could establish that would help a lot of people and possibly generate some good career opportunities for me.

A couple years ago I was monkeying around with this concept and I created this “Overview of Sacred Jewish Texts” video, which is too long, muddled, and visually uninteresting to quite fit the bill.

I like the idea of creating videos that make Jewish texts, from the different books of the Torah to various rabbinic texts, accessible to the general public. My vision is to create videos that are not dumbed down, but that remain committed to high degrees of comprehension from viewers who are newcomers. Each video would end with a screen shot of recommended links to other online resources that viewers can use to expand upon what they’ve learned in my videos. I’d call that the “Now go and learn…” feature, echoing the ancient sage, Hillel, who is responsible for both the “on one foot” and the “go and learn” memes in Judaism.

I’m interested in what kinds of grants I might be able to apply for. Perhaps I should go ahead and create a starter set of these videos and then seek additional funding. I don’t know. Interested in others thoughts in the comments here or privately.

Here’s another example of a video I created that seeks to help people use a structured method to writing a d’var Torah (a sermon) on the weekly Torah portion.

Again, I feel it’s a bit dry, but I wonder if anyone out there would be willing to comment or send me private feedback as to whether something like this would be useful.

Thanks everyone!