I received a thought provoking email a few days ago from someone I don’t know personally. First is her comment, followed by my response: ” Dear Rev. Weinstein: It sounds as if you are of Jewish ancestry. If so, I feel it is sad that you possibly felt the need to give up on your own rich religious tradition where you might have found what you are looking for if you tried harder. Another BuJew?”
My answer: “No, I haven’t given anything up. I was raised Jewish with parents who encouraged learning about other traditions. I went to Hebrew school until I was 16, became a Bat Mitzvah at 13, studied various faiths in college. I was ordained as an interfaith minister via The New Seminary in NYC in 1999, which was founded by a ‘modern Hassidic rabbi’ named Joseph Gelberman, as well as a minister, a priest and imam. The motto of the school is “Never instead of, always in addition to.” When I told my parents I was enrolling, my mother said “I have one question for you. Are you converting?” I told her “No, I’m expanding.” She said “Ok.” and she and my father flew up from Florida for my ordination. When my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, I officiated at a vow renewal ceremony for them and when they each died, I officiated at their funerals, with their full consent. My mother would jokingly call me her “Reverend Daughter”. I say that Love is my religion and God is too big to put in a box.” Hopefully that answers your thoughts. Judaism is a rich culture and so are the others in which I immerse myself. I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe spritually.”
I posted this interchange on my facebook page and was overwhelmed by how many people responded-52 at this point and it generated some amazing conversation about the nature of people’s spiritual beliefs. I have never received so many thumbs up ‘likes’ on anything else I have posted-nearly 100 at last count. What that tells me is that this aspect of existence looms large in the lives of so many. We may go about our day to day, not really thinking about our Divine nature and connection to our Source, whatever we might believe it to be. If you are like me, it is nearly all you ponder. Having said that, please know that I’m not walking around with my head in the clouds all day. Like one of my favorite transformational teachers, Ram Dass was quoted as saying “You still have to remember your zip code.”…and I do, along with a gazillion other life details.
Some of the answers explained their own religious beliefs and others were of a protective nature of my belief system. Here is a random sampling:
“I look at religious-based spirituality as a room with glass walls. Some feel they benefit from focusing on a specific tradition, while others may not. But it doesn’t have to mean you think yours is the only way, or that you can’t expand your boundaries with knowledge of other paths. I’ve found equal spiritual awareness in folks in and out of the traditions — also equal bigotry towards those making other choices.”
“Labels are so dividing. I wonder if she is willing to see that the very hatred that has caused so much suffering for the Jewish people came from exactly the same thinking? I feel the same way about being an “American”. I prefer to identify as an Earthling.”
“Good for you responding to an ignorant person with love.”
“All Humans would benefit from this “expanded” view and would stop killing each other over whose “view” is “better” or “correct”. I know God, The Creator, Higher Power, Buddha, etc, does not say “kill all others that do not believe I am the only way” – this is a human construct. And this EGO CENTERED HUMAN CONSTRUCT is killing off a large number of us in the name of RELIGION. How about acceptance and tolerance, y’all!!”
“I especially appreciate the idea of expanding rather than converting. Even though I was raised Episcopalian, I never had anything against the church. When I started studying/creating my own nature-focused spirituality I felt like I was expanding more than I felt like I was converting. I never denounced God or Jesus, and have no desire to. Maybe that’s why it was so easy to stand as my nephew’s godmother in the Catholic church even as a “pagan”
“People ask me the same thing as a Unitarian..I also tell them I did not give up being Jewish but added to my religious identity..I am a JewUU.”
“I refer to myself as “spiritually eclectic”.
“Beautiful answer, Edie and I admire your willingness to address what many of us today, may be questioned about. One of the joys of being with like-minded members of a univeral humanity is the ability to accept and embrace the value of all cultures and religions.”
“Love your response. As I rabbi, I feel that religion continues to divide us. How can we ever have world peace when we have the “mine’s better than yours” mentality. In the spiritual world, where we recognize that we are all ONE, all created with the breath of God, all co-creators with the Divine – then we can gather in global peace. I was ordained by Joseph Gelberman who truly taught inclusion — Never Instead of, Always in Addition To. I love my Jewishness but I practice now as an interfaith Trauma Chaplain where we all connect with One God, One World, One Community.”
I thank this woman who I may never meet face to face, but if I do, I will ask to hug her in gratitude for starting this Divine dialogue.
One of my favorite songs by Michael Franti has this lovely line “God’s too big for just one religion.”
http://youtu.be/xb-VN88MHL8 East To The West-Michael Franti