Judaism Unbound Episode 93: Community of Communities - Rachel Timoner


Dan and Lex are joined by Rachel Timoner, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) in Brooklyn, New York. [1] As the final interview in our exploration of Reform Judaism, we learn how a synagogue can be built out of a wide variety of micro-communities yet still constitute one organization. Our conversation also looks at political organizing through a Jewish lens, the value and values of the Reform movement today, and the possibilities that arise when those once on the outside are able to become leaders.

If you would like to download this episode as an mp3 file, click here

Image Credit: CentralSynagogue.org

Image Credit: CentralSynagogue.org

(0:01 - 13:58): Rachel Timoner begins the episode by mapping out a wide variety of micro-communities, each with its own independent identity, but which together form the Congregation Beth Elohim community. These range from Altshul, [2] a traditional and egalitarian minyan, to Brooklyn Jews, [3] a group focused on younger Jews, to Get Organized Brooklyn, [4] a group of synagogue members and non-mebers devoted to fighting for social justice with respect to local, state, and national issues.

(13:59 - 30:22): CBE has become a leader among synagogues when it comes to social justice work. Timoner outlines how CBE has created a context where its members (and others in the community) understand that it is a space not just for worship and study, but for organizing as well. She also explains why, for her, political work is an imperative from the lens of Jewish tradition. Lex then asks her about a feature in the Forward called "Rabbis' Roundtable," [5] in which Timoner has been featured. Timoner explores the relationship between rabbinic leadership and lay-people.

(30:23 - 46:31): Timoner gives her thoughts on the role that Jewish denominations play, stating that she does not envision a future where denominations dissolve or merge into one another. She also explains why she is proud to be part of the Reform movement, identifying its engagement with social justice and relationship to Jewish law (halakhah) as two characteristics that are among its great strengths. To close the episode, Timoner gives her take on how Queer identity can blend with Jewish identity in a way that is conducive to successful Jewish leadership. [6]

[1] Learn more about Congregation Beth Elohim by checking out their website, accessible by clicking here. Access Rachel Timoner's bio here, and purchase her book, Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism, at this link.

[2] Visit Altshul's website by clicking here.

[3] Access Brooklyn Jews's website here.

[4] Learn more about Get Organized Brooklyn through this Huffington Post article, written by Ellen Freudenheim. Check out the Get Organized Brooklyn website by clicking here.

[5] For all of Timoner's responses to the questions asked for the Rabbis' Roundtable series, click here. For all of her responses alongside those of a wide variety of other rabbis, click here.

[6] If you'd like to explore the intersection of Queer and Jewish identity further, hear from some of our past Judaism Unbound guests who provide their thoughts and experiences on that topic: Episode 56: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva - Benay Lappe     Episode 36: What Jewish Looks Like Today - Benay Lappe      Episode 35: Twice Blessed - Joshua Lesser