Judaism Unbound Episode 105: The Well - Dan Horwitz


Dan and Lex are joined by Dan Horwitz, Founding Director of The Well, [1] an inclusive Jewish community-building initiative geared towards young adults in Metro Detroit. Their conversation explores the founding and evolution of The Well, the ways it approaches the idea of pluralism, its unique relationship to a nearby Reform synagogue, and more. 

 Image Credit: Ron Lieberman Photography

Image Credit: Ron Lieberman Photography

(0:01 - 15:23): To begin the episode, Horwitz explores the origin-story of The Well. [2] He describes his initial desire to create a "liberal, inclusive Chabad," along with the ways that vision evolved. In particular, he discusses the growth of The Well when events shifted from taking place mostly at Horwitz's own home towards a more de-centralized, "empowerment-centric" model. He also delves into some of the particular gatherings offered by The Well, along with the reasoning that went into choosing its organizational name. [3]

(15:24 - 31:12): Horwitz lays out how The Well engages with the concept of pluralism, which differs from the approach of many other Jewish institutions. He also takes a look at the role of Hebrew text, transliteration, and translation in Jewish prayer. He then talks a bit about the geography and history of Metro Detroit, in addition to some of the characteristics of The Well that make it a particularly good fit for the area it inhabits. [4]

(31:13 - 48:13): The conversation turns towards the relationship of The Well to synagogues nearby. Horwitz first lays out some reasons that The Well does not envision becoming a synagogue community in the near future, and, relatedly, how The Well understands "hand-offs" of its members to traditional synagogue institutions. He then takes a look at the population of people attending his organization's programming who are not Jewish themselves, but enjoy participating in The Well's gatherings regardless. [5] [6] To close the episode, Horwitz provides an overview of The Well's unique (or nearly unique) structural relationship to Temple Israel, a nearby Reform congregation. [7]

[1] Learn more about Dan Horwitz by visiting www.RabbiDanH.com. Learn more about The Well at www.MeetYouAtTheWell.org, and read a Detroit News article about its work by clicking here.

[2] In this origin-story, Horwitz mentions elements of his experience at the Western Wall in Jerusalem that were alienating to him, and many others on his trip to Israel. For more on the complex issues that manifest at the Western Wall, click here.

[3] Horwitz highlights CSI: Coffee. Study. Interpret. as a particularly successful initiative. Learn more about it here.

[4] When discussing the role of Hebrew in prayer, Horwitz cites a past Judaism Unbound episode. Listen to it in full by clicking here: Episode 69: Holy Rascals - Rami Shapiro. For more on Detroit's Jewish history, we recommend Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit, by Lila Corwin Berman.

[5] Horwitz alludes to confusion between his organization and another innovative Jewish organization called . Learn more about the latter by clicking here.

[6] When Horwitz refers to drinking the "Kula Kool-Aid," he is referring to the ideas and teachings of Irwin Kula. If you're interested in hearing from Irwin Kula, tune into Episode 53: Death and Rebirth and/or Episode 54: Judaism's Job

[7] One element of The Well's offerings that this episode did not cover is its large-scale events in a wide variety of public spaces. Among those events has been a Tashlich (casting away of sins) service, on Rosh Hashanah, attended by over 1,000 people, a Passover celebration at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a Game of Thrones-themed Sukkah made out of 2,000+ recycled soda cans in the heart of downtown Detroit.