Judaism Unbound Episode 107: Because Jewish - Dan Ain

Dan and Lex are joined by Dan Ain, Founder and Spiritual Leader of Because Jewish. In their conversation, they discuss the ways in which music can engage people spiritually, the tension between "inspiration" and "institution," how the Grateful Dead are relevant to Judaism and how rabbis have it harder than Bruce Springsteen, as well as a wide variety of other important topics for contemporary Judaism.

Image Credit: Monica Schipper/Getty Images North America

Image Credit: Monica Schipper/Getty Images North America

(0:01 - 13:56): Ain begins the show by providing an overview of Because Jewish. [1] He highlights its Friday Night Jam experiences, [2] which welcome well-known musicians into a space to share their spiritual journeys, along with their music. Continuing, he looks at another successful Because Jewish initiative, called Bowl Hashanah (Rosh Hashanah in a bowling alley), [3] and examines the historic American tradition of religious revivals. [4]

(13:57 - 27:32): After a brief, and genuinely beautiful, detour surrounding the holiness of urination, Ain talks about the relationship between two concepts that are not always juxtaposed -- institution and inspiration. He asks whether Jewish institutions may actually fear inspiration in certain senses, and if the resulting risk aversion can have negative consequences on contemporary Judaism. He then provides a window into what made him want to become a rabbi in the first place, emphasizing the tremendous impact that 9/11 had in changing his life's direction.

(27:33 - 42:04): Ain examines the ways in which spiritual experiences can occur in unexpected places. He mentions the culture around The Grateful Dead as a particularly helpful example of how communities can gather and connect to something holy in an unconventional manner. [5] Citing another famous performer, Bruce Springsteen, Ain and the co-hosts explore the challenges faced by both artists and rabbis, and discuss ways that better models could be built for Jewish leaders to avoid burn-out in the future. He also implores communal leaders to think outside of the traditional (and quantifiable) metrics for success that are often utilized. To close, Ain speaks to some of his own holy experiences through Because Jewish, which often come after events, through feedback he receives from those who attend.

Image Credit: Jonathan Blum

Image Credit: Jonathan Blum

[1] Visit Because Jewish's website by clicking here. For a longer piece on Dan Ain, and his work with Because Jewish, click here.

[2] Stay informed about upcoming Friday Night Jam events here.

[3] For more on Bowl Hashanah, see this 2015 JTA article, entitled "Brooklyn's hippest bowling alley to host blues-rock Rosh Hashanah Service."

[4] Learn about America's history of religious revival by clicking here.

[5] For an article about the spirituality of the Grateful Dead, see "The Future of Religion Is...The Dead."