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A Jewish Buddhist (also Jewbu or Jubu or Buju) is a person with a Jewish background who practices forms of Buddhist meditation and spirituality. The term Jubu was first brought into wide circulation with the publication of The Jew in the Lotus (1994) by Rodger Kamenetz. In some cases, the term can refer to individuals who practice both traditions; in other cases, Jewish is an ethnic designation where the person's main religious practice is Buddhism. In yet other cases, a Jubu is simply a Jew with an interest in Buddhism. A large demographic of Jewish Buddhists, constituting its majority, still maintain religious practices and beliefs in Judaism coupled with Buddhist practices and perhaps beliefs.
The first recorded instance of an American being converted to Buddhism on American soil occurred at the 1893 exposition on world religions; the convert was a Jewish man named Charles Strauss. He declared himself a Buddhist at a public lecture that followed the World Conference on Religions in 1893. Strauss later became an author and leading expositor of Buddhism in the West. After World War II there was increasing interest in Buddhism, associated with the Beat generation. Zen was the most important influence at that time. A new wave of Jews became involved with Buddhism in the late 1960s. Prominent teachers included Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg who founded the Insight Meditation Society, Sylvia Boorstein who teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, all of whom learned vipassana meditation primarily through Thai teachers. Another generation of Jews as Buddhist teachers emerged in the early 2000s, including author Taro Gold, expounding Japanese traditions such as Nichiren Buddhism.
According to the Ten Commandments and classical Jewish law, known as Halacha, it is forbidden for any Jew to worship any deity other than the way God is worshipped in Judaism – specifically by bowing, offering incense, sacrifices and/or poured libations. It is likewise forbidden to join or serve in another religion because doing so would render such an individual an apostate or an idol worshipper. Since most Buddhists do not consider the Buddha to have been a "god", Jewish Buddhists do not consider Buddhist practice to be "worship". This is despite incense and food offerings are made to a statue of the Buddha, and both prostration and bowing are done before a statue of the Buddha. In addition, many Buddhists (particularly Theravada Buddhists) do not "worship" the Buddha but instead "revere" and "express gratitude" for the Buddha's (and all buddhas') accomplishment and compassionate teaching (that is, discovering and teaching the Dharma so others might be released from suffering and achieve Nirvana).
- Bhikkhu Bodhi
- Thubten Chodron
- Leonard Cohen
- Surya Das
- Robert Downey, Jr.
- Mark Epstein
- Anthony Ervin
- Zoketsu Norman Fischer
- Allen Ginsberg
- Bernard Glassman
- Philip Glass
- Craig Taro Gold
- Natalie Goldberg
- Daniel Goleman
- Joseph Goldstein
- Goldie Hawn
- Jack Kornfield
- Mandy Patinkin
- Jeremy Piven
- Larry Rosenberg
- Sharon Salzberg
- Nyanaponika Thera
- Helen Tworkov
- Adam Yauch
- Shinzen Young
- The Jew in the Lotus Jewish Identity in Buddhist India Retrieved on June 5, 2007
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- See Larry Rohter, "On the Road, for Reasons Practical and Spiritual." The New York Times, 25 February 2009. For an extended discussion of the Jewish mystical and Buddhist motifs in Cohen's songs and poems, see Elliot R. Wolfson, "New Jerusalem Glowing: Songs and Poems of Leonard Cohen in a Kabbalistic Key," Kabbalah: A Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts 15 (2006): 103–152.
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- Taro Gold Biography
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- The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz
- Zen Judaism: For You a Little Enlightenment by David M. Bader
- Letters to a Buddhist Jew by Akiva Tatz
- That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist by Sylvia Boorstein
- The “Oy Vey” School of Buddhism
- AFC News Source – Jews by birth who practice Buddhism
- Story of a Jewish Buddhist
- You don't look Buddhist
- A frank encounter between religious Jews and Tibetan Buddhists
- Excerpt from Letters to a Buddhist Jew by Akiva Tatz