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”

Exploring Connections btw Midrash & New Testament

I just had the pleasure of presenting a two-part series on connections between Midrash and New Testament writings to an interfaith audience in Corvallis, Oregon. We met at the Church of the Good Samaritan (Episcopal), and a local synagogue, Congregation Beit Am, co-sponsored the course. (Shout outs to Rev. Simon Justice and Rabbi Benjamin Barnett of the respective congregations!) Members of at least 3 other Christian churches in the area attended as well.

I used PowerPoint slideshows and I think they were really effective.

I’m using my blog to share links to them on Slideshare.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can find them here:

 

I’m interested in getting feedback, or in coming to your community to teach. It works great with a Jewish, Christian, or interfaith group.
thanks!

The Blessings of Diversity within the Jewish Community

This is a d’var (sermon) I gave 11 years ago at my first High Holy Days at the congregation I served for 8 years.

Yom Kippur Sermon 2003 / 5764 – Rabbi Maurice Harris

I would like to begin by saying thank you so very much to everyone in this community for welcoming Melissa and me so warmly. Our first weeks here have been wonderful, and we have quickly realized how fortunate we are to be a part of Temple Beth Israel and part of the Eugene community. We especially feel blessed to have made our way to a place that offers such joyful prayer and music, as well as such rich Torah study and conversation. One of the things that drew us to this congregation was our sense that it was a Jewishly diverse place — a place where we would find many varieties of Jewish life and practice interwoven into a single congregation. We have found that here and we love it.

A rabbi I admire very much, Margaret Holub, teaches that building community is great spiritual work. Committing to be part of a community, approaching differences with appreciation and conflicts with love is at times not easy, but the rewards are great. I feel blessed to be part of a congregation that takes this holy work so seriously and that can teach me so much.

Temple Beth Israel is one of the most Jewishly diverse congregations I’ve ever been a part of, and this ties directly into what I’d like to talk about tonight. The people who make up this congregation come from many different backgrounds, embrace a wide range of religious approaches and practices of Judaism, and include Jews — and many non-Jews — who contribute a wide range of talents and ideas to this community. It is this kind of diversity — the astonishing diversity that is internal to the Jewish community — that I think can be one of our people’s greatest strengths when it is embraced with care and faith by all of us. However, despite its potential blessings, our diversity also causes many Jewish leaders to worry about our future. Let me say a little more about what I mean.who is wise

It has become a cliché to say that the diversity of the United States is what gives it its strength. But you don’t often hear Jews celebrating the growing diversity of the Jewish people. True, sometimes we marvel at the many different countries, languages, and cultures that Jews have lived in, but by and large you don’t hear American and Israeli Jewish leaders saying that what Judaism really needs right now is more divergent opinions, more diverse families, and a greater variety of religious practices. Rather, there is a great fear of how diverse we have become, and on an institutional level Jewish leadership has often responded by establishing organizations or programs that are intended to function like fences – holding back the threat of an imagined great migration of Judaism into a thousand different directions, never to be whole again. The prospect of Jewish religious schisms or of mass assimilation haunt many of our leaders. Continue reading “The Blessings of Diversity within the Jewish Community”