Shavuot Community Tikkun | A Tree of Life: Jewish Tools for Resilience | Montclair NJ

at Congregation Shomrei Emunah

Montclair, NJ
More Info / Registration

Over the last 2,500 years Jews have developed a wide array of resources not just to cope or endure, but to thrive and prosper in the face of challenges. This Shavuot, we will explore ways in which the Torah (understood broadly) can truly be a Tree of Life, providing tools to respond to this moment in profound and powerful ways,and make Judaism newly relevant to people from all walks of life.
This year’s visiting scholar is Rabbi Dr. Jay Michaelson. Rabbi Jay is the author of ten books, most  recently, The Heresy of Jacob Frank: From Jewish Messianism to Esoteric Myth (Oxford, 2022). A columnist for The Forward  for ten years and the founder of two Jewish LGBTQ  organizations, Rabbi Michaelson today works as a journalist, meditation teacher, and professor.  Jay’s keynote address will be:

Seven (!) Modalities of Jewish Resilience

In study after study, Americans  are reporting increased levels of anxiety, fear, even hopelessness.  The causes for this phenomenon are many, and unlikely to go away any time soon. What’s needed is resilience: not a denial of reality, but the capacity to both face the world honestly and still cultivate joy, determination, courage, and peace of mind.

In Jewish texts and traditions, there are many ways in which these attributes are nurtured, even in the face of challenges.  Honoring the seven weeks that culminate in Shavuot, tonight we’ll look at seven of them, embodied in seven diverse Jewish heroes: Hannah (mother of Samuel), Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, Bezalel, Deborah, Rabbi Tarfon, Kohelet, and the Daughters of Zelophechad.  Some of these will be familiar, others new; some will comfort, others may provoke.  But all make a case for the continued relevance and value of Jewish engagement, especially in uncertain times.


7:00pm – 7:45pm
Candle Lighting and Ma’ariv (Evening) Serfvice

7:45pm – 8:30pm
Oneg (light meal, dairy)

8:30pm – 9:30pm
Keynote Talk by Rabbi Jay Michaelson: Seven Modalities of Jewish Resilience
Can’t attend? Watch via livestream.

The source packet for this session is here.

9:40pm – 10:40pm
Breakout Session Block 1

Singing for Joy and Strength
Rabbi Ariann Weitzman, Bnai Keshet, & Student Rabbi Lily Lucey, Congregation Shomrei Emunah
Allow song to sustain and build your spirit. You will leave uplifted and inspired to receive Torah with both new and familiar melodies to bring back to your community and Jewish life.

Yoga of Gratitude
Dr. Sara Feldman, Psychotherapist and Registered Yoga Instructor
Shavuot, also known as Z’man Matan Torah, or, the time of the giving of the Torah, offers us a special opportunity to express gratitude, both for the teaching and guidance we are blessed to receive, as well as the teaching and guidance we have within ourselves to share with each other. Join Shomrei congregant Sara Feldman, RYT-200, as she leads us in a sequence of yoga postures designed to ready our bodies and minds for a night of both receiving and sharing in the teachings and guidance of Torah. This is an open-level class that will be accessible to beginners. Comfortable clothing is encouraged.  Shomrei will provide mats, although participants are welcome to bring their own mats and props.

The Heart of Loneliness: How Jewish Wisdom Can Help You Cope and Find Comfort
Rabbi Marc Katz, Temple Ner Tamid,
This session will focus on the role Judaism plays in alleviating loneliness in our lives and the lives of others. Loneliness is pervasive in our society but is rarely addressed. It comes in many forms, from the loneliness of loss to that of sickness; from single life to marriage to divorce. In fact, even achievement can be an avenue to loneliness. Using stories from the Bible, teachings from our ancient Rabbis, and coupling these with modern psychology Rabbi Katz will explore concrete ways as individuals and as community members we may help those who are lonely in our midst.

Unlocking the Secret Power of Jewish Ritual
Rabbi Julie Roth, Congregation Shomrei Emunah
How do our Jewish rituals allow us to access healing, deep meaning, and transformation, the building blocks for resilience? Explore how rituals such as shiva, mikveh, shofar-blowing, candle-lighting, and the Passover seder open a window to patterns of meaning across the Jewish ritual universe. We will discuss texts of origin, contemporary interpretations and adaptations, and insights from our own experience.

Tzimtzum (Spiritual Contraction): The Torah of Connecting in Troubled Times
Rabbi Noach Shapiro, LCSW
Whether it’s in the isolation of a pandemic, during a challenging chapter of our parent-journey, as our children (of any age) struggle, when someone we love is suffering, we often wonder: In supporting our loved ones, where do we stand?  How close is too close? How far is too far? How do we determine how best to show up for those we love? Using the kabbalistic idea of  tzimtzum and rabbinic wisdom as our guide, we will explore the dynamics of ‘relational choreography’ in troubled times.

Shavuot Experience for Teens
Abulafia, Reb Nachman, and Dvora Lapson Part I: Jewish Revelations for the Mind and Body

Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Vice President of Education, Moving Traditions
We’ll take a deep dive into the weird and wonderful ritual practices of three pioneering Jewish figures – Abraham Abulafia, a 13th century Spanish mystic, Reb Nachman of Breslov, an 18th century Ukrainian storyteller, and Dvora Lapson, an early 20th century dancer and educator who served as a consultant to Fiddler on The Roof on Broadway. For each pioneer of embodied Jewish practice we will not only read original texts to understand their worldview, but we will engage in the various modalities they championed – movement, visualization, meditation, chanting, and dance. At the end of the night we will weave it all together to better understand the diversity and depth of Jewish spiritual practice.

10:50pm – 11:50pm
Breakout Session Block 2

God would like us to be joyful …
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Bnai Keshet
Fulfilling the commandment to be joyful as a practice for resilience. Using Hassidic texts, meditation and song, we will explore the power of turning our hearts toward simcha – joy as a path to deepening our spiritual practice, repairing the world and just being happier.

Five Big Ideas in Jewish Wisdom That Teach Resiliency
Rabbi Sharon Litwin, Director of Youth and Family Education, Temple Ner Tamid
Through images as well as text, this session will explore the themes of Sukkat Shalom (Shelter of Peace), Ometz Lev (Courage or Strength of Heart), Gevurah (Power or Strength), Tikvah  (Hope) and Hesed (Loving Kindness).

The Anxiety of Ripening and the Resilience of the Garden 
Rabbi Justus Baird, Hartman Institute
The period between Pesach and Shavuot – 7 weeks marked by counting the omer – is rooted in the agricultural cycle of the land of Israel. Ancient growers of new crops, as well as modern backyard gardeners, are filled with anxiety, especially in the face of unpredictable spring weather. We’ll explore how Jewish practice cultivated resilience through these weeks of anxiety. And we’ll discuss the unique joy of watching something grow, the tension and partnership between God and humanity in cultivating life, and the horror of uprooting some plants so that others can thrive.

Jewish Humor and Why It Matters
Rabbi Laurence Groffman, Temple Sholom of West Essex
Humor makes us laugh, but why is laughing important? Why is humor an integral part of Jewish life? We will explore these questions with a look at some examples of Jewish humor and commentary on why it matters.

Shavuot Experience for Teens
Abulafia, Reb Nachman, and Dvorah Lapson Part II: Chassidisco Fever 

Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Vice President of Education, Moving Traditions
 Shavuot Experience for Teens, continued

12:00am – 12:30am
Chanting of the 10 Commandments by Shomrei Teens **

12:30am – 1:30am
My Favorite Verse in the Torah: How Spirituality and Social Justice Enrich One Another **
Keynote Speaker Rabbi Jay Michaelson
Do we have to miserable if we’re engaged with politics, activism, and social justice?  Conversely, do we need to shut out the world if we’re engaged in spirituality, meditation, and other practices of resilience?  Of course not!  In this session, we’ll look in depth at my favorite verse in the Torah (which actually appears several times, in various forms) and how it points to the ways spiritual practice and the pursuit of justice can reinforce one another.