Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in 2005
Meshullam Zalman Schachter
28 August 1924
|Died||3 July 2014 (aged 89)|
Meshullam Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (28 August 1924 – 3 July 2014), commonly called "Reb Zalman" (full Hebrew name: Meshullam Zalman Hiyya ben Chaya Gittel veShlomo HaCohen), was one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement and an innovator in ecumenical dialogue.
Born in 1924 in Żółkiew, Poland (now Ukraine), Schachter was raised in Vienna. His father was a liberal Belzer hasid and had Zalman educated at both a Zionist high school and an Orthodox yeshiva. Schachter was interned in detention camps under the Vichy French and fled the Nazi advance by coming to the United States in 1941. He was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in 1947 within the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic community while under the leadership of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, and served Chabad congregations in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Along with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Schachter was initially sent out to speak on college campuses by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In 1958, Schachter privately published what may have been the first English book on Jewish meditation. It was later reprinted in The Jewish Catalog, and was read by a generation of Jews and as well as some Christian contemplatives. Schachter left the Lubavitcher movement after experimenting with "the sacramental value of lysergic acid" from 1962. With subsequent rise of the hippie movement in the 1960s, and exposure to Christian mysticism, he moved away from the Chabad lifestyle.
Career and work
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From 1956 to 1975, Reb Zalman was based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, though he travelled extensively. In Winnipeg, he worked as Hillel director and as head of Judaic Studies at the University of Manitoba. These positions allowed him to share his ideas and experiential techniques of spirituality with many Jewish and non-Jewish students, leaving lasting memories. While pursuing a course of study at Boston University (including a class taught by Howard Thurman), he experienced an intellectual and spiritual shift. In 1968, on sabbatical from the Religion department of the University of Manitoba, he joined a group of other Jews in founding a havurah (small cooperative congregation) in Somerville, Massachusetts, called Havurat Shalom. In 1974, Schachter hosted a month-long Kabbalah workshop in Berkeley, California; his experimental style and the inclusion of mystical and cross-cultural ideas are credited as the inspiration for the formation of the havurah there that eventually became the Aquarian Minyan congregation. He eventually left the Lubavitch movement altogether, and founded his own organization known as B'nai Or, meaning "Sons of Light," a title he took from the Dead Sea Scrolls writings. During this period he was known to his followers as the "B'nai Or Rebbe", and the rainbow prayer shawl he designed for his group was known as the "B'nai Or tallit". Both the havurah experiment and B'nai Or came to be seen as the early stirrings of the Jewish Renewal movement. The congregation later changed its name to the more gender neutral, "P'nai Or" meaning "Faces of Light", and it continues under this name.
In the 1980s, Schachter added "Shalomi" (based on the Hebrew word shalom, peace) to his name, as a statement of his desire for peace in Israel and around the world.
In later years, Schachter-Shalomi held the World Wisdom Chair at The Naropa Institute; he was Professor Emeritus at both Naropa and Temple University. He also served on the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Omega, the NICABM and many other major institutions. He was founder of the ALEPH Ordination Programs and ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. The seminary he founded has ordained over 80 rabbis and cantors.
Schachter-Shalomi was among the group of rabbis, from a wide range of Jewish denominations, who traveled together to India to meet with the Dalai Lama and discuss diaspora survival for Jews and Tibetan Buddhists with him. Tibetans, exiled from their homeland for more than three generations, face some of the same assimilation challenges experienced by Jewish diaspora. The Dalai Lama was interested in knowing how the Jews had survived with their culture intact. That journey was chronicled in Rodger Kamenetz' 1994 book The Jew in the Lotus.
Themes and innovations
Schachter-Shalomi's work reflects several recurring themes, including:
- "Paradigm shifts" within Judaism
- New approaches to halakha (Jewish law) including "psycho-halakha" (as of 2007, called "integral halakha") and doctrines like eco-kashrut
- The importance of interfaith dialogue and "deep ecumenism" (meaningful connections between traditions)
- "Four Worlds" Judaism (integrating the Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, and Spiritual realms)
He was committed to the Gaia hypothesis, to feminism, and to full inclusion of LGBT people within Judaism. His innovations in Jewish worship include chanting prayers in English while retaining the traditional Hebrew structures and melodies, engaging davenners (worshipers) in theological dialogue, leading meditation during services and the introduction of spontaneous movement and dance. Many of these techniques have also found their way into the more mainstream Jewish community.
Schachter-Shalomi encouraged diversity among his students and urged them to bring their own talents, vision, views and social justice values to the study and practice of Judaism. Based on the Hasidic writings of Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbitz, he taught that anything, even what others consider sin and heresy, could be God's will.
His major academic work, Spiritual Intimacy: A study of Counseling in Hasidism, was the result of his doctoral research into the system of spiritual direction cultivated within Chabad Hasidism. This led to his encouragement of students to study widely in the field of Spiritual Direction (one-on-one counseling) and to innovate contemporary systems to help renew a healthy spirituality in Jewish life. He also pioneered the practice of "spiritual eldering", working with fellow seniors on coming to spiritual terms with aging and becoming mentors for younger adults.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was honored by the New York Open Center in 1997 for his Spiritual Renewal.
He was also recognized as a shaikh in the Sufi Order of Pir Vilayat Khan in the United States and in the Holy Land.
In 2012, the Unitarian Universalist Starr King School for the Ministry awarded Schachter-Shalomi an honorary doctorate of theology, and he gave a popular series of lectures on the "Emerging Cosmology".
Schachter-Shalomi produced a large body of articles, books, audio and video recordings. His free-association homiletical style, typical of Hasidic-trained rabbis, and his frequent use of psychological terminology and computer metaphors are appreciated by many first-time readers.
His publications include:
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (1975). Philip Mandelkorn; Stephen Gerstman (eds.). Fragments of a Future Scroll: Ḥassidism for the Aquarian Age. Leaves of Grass Press. ISBN 978-0-915070-00-8.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Donald Gropman (1983). The First Step: A Guide for the New Jewish Spirit. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-01418-1.
- Howard Schwartz; Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (1989). The Dream Assembly: Tales of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Gateways/IDHHB. ISBN 978-0-89556-059-9.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (1991). Spiritual Intimacy: A Study of Counseling in Hasidism. Jason Aronson. ISBN 978-0-87668-772-7.
- Ellen Singer, ed. (1993). Paradigm Shift: From the Jewish Renewal Teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Jason Aronson. ISBN 978-0-87668-543-3.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Nataniel M. Miles-Yepez (2003). Wrapped in a holy flame: teachings and tales of the Hasidic masters. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint. ISBN 978-0-7879-6573-0.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Daniel Siegel (2005). Credo of a Modern Kabbalist. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4120-6107-0.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Joel Segel (2005). Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice. Riverhead Books. ISBN 978-1-57322-280-8.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Daniel Siegel (2007). Integral Halachah: Transcending and Including Jewish Practice Through the Lens of Personal Transformation and Global Consciousness. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4251-2698-8.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Ronald S. Miller (2008). From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0-446-55373-5.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; Yair Hillel Goelman (2009). Ahron's Heart: The Prayers, Teachings and Letters of Ahrele Roth, a Hasidic Reformer. Ben Yehuda Press. ISBN 978-1-934730-18-8.
- Zalman Schacter-Shalomi; Netanel Miles-Yepez (2017). A Heart Afire: Stories and Teachings of the Early Hasidic Masters. Monkfish Book Publishing. ISBN 978-1-939681-62-1.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (2011). Michael L. Kagan (ed.). All Breathing Life Adores Your Name: At the Interface Between Poetry and Prayer : Translations and Compositions of Jewish Sacred Literature. Gaon Books. ISBN 978-1-935604-21-1.
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (2013). Netanel Miles-Yépez; Robert Micha'el Esformes (eds.). Gate to the Heart: A Manual of Contemplative Jewish Practice. Albion-Andalus. ISBN 978-0-615-94456-2.
- Nahman of Bratzlav (2013). Tikkun Klali: Rebbe Nahman of Bratzlav's Ten Remedies for the Soul. Translated by Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman. Albion-Andalus Books. ISBN 978-0-615-75876-3.
- Sara Davidson (2014). The December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life's Greatest Mystery. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-228176-0.
Schachter-Shalomi was married four times and was the father of 11 children. At his passing, he was survived by his wife of 20 years, Eve Ilsen, along with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
- "Reb Zalman z"l (1924–2014)". Kol Aleph. Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal. 3 July 2014.
- Netanel Miles-Yepez (6 July 2014). "Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Father of Jewish Renewal, Dies at 89". Huffington Post Blog. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- Treiman, Daniel (3 July 2014). "Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Jewish Renewal Pioneer, Dead at 89". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- Grob, Charles S.; Walsh, Roger N. (2005). Higher wisdom: eminent elders explore the continuing impact of psychedelics. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-7914-6517-9.
- Miles-Yepez, Netanel (3 July 2014). "Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Father of Jewish Renewal, Dies at 89". The Renewalist Blog. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
- Mittleman, Alan; Sarna, Jonathan; Licht, Robert: "Jewish Polity and American Civil Society. p. 365. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2002 ISBN 0-7425-2122-2
- "Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Jewish pioneer, dies at 89". The Boston Globe. 16 July 2014.
- Shupac, Jodie (7 July 2014). "Rabbi was Icon of New Age Judaism". The Canadian Jewish Times. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
- "Winnipeg Jewish Renewal Oral History Collection". Post-Holocaust American Judaism Collections. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
- "History". The Aquarian Minyan. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
- "A Biography of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi". Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi Collection. University of Colorado Boulder. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
- Celebration of Reb Zalman's Life and Legacy, archived from the original on 27 March 2015, retrieved 16 January 2020
- Vitello, Paul (8 July 2014). "Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Jewish Pioneer, Dies at 89". The New York Times.
- Matanky, Eugene. "Zalman Schachter Shalomi: Dreaming Beyond Gender Essentialism". Cite journal requires
- Matanky, Eugene. "Between Meditative Prayer and Prayerful Meditation: Prayer in the Age of Aquarius in the Thought of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi". Cite journal requires
- Butnick, Stephanie (3 July 2014). "Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Dies at 89". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- "National Jewish Book Award Winners 2012". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- "Family of Rabbi Zalman Schachter responds to article about his life". Jewish Post and News.
- "Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi". ALEPH.
- Articles by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi
- Zalman Schachter-Shalomi at Find a Grave
- Index of Works by Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi
- The Reb Zalman Legacy Project
- Patheos interview with Reb Zalman on interfaith dialogue
- Beyond Jewish Triumphalism, an interview with Reb Zalman by Patheos
- Zalman M. Schachter Shalomi Collection, University of Colorado Boulder Libraries