Sara Levy Linden, Shira Rutman: Judaism Unbound Episode 183 - Intentional Community


Sara Levy Linden and Shira Rutman, two members of San Francisco’s Urban Kibbutz, join Dan and Lex for a conversation about what constitutes an intentional community.

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(0:01 - 18:26): To begin the episode, Levy Linden looks back at the beginnings of the Urban Kibbutz in San Francisco. [1] Rutman speaks to the kinds of programming that they run, and explains how even without shared housing (as is the case for many kibbutzes in Israel), there can be a strong sense of shared community for their kibbutz. She also articulates why they sought to foster a communal space around Judaism in particular, and talks through the flow of the group from week to week, and over the course of the Jewish calendar year. Levy Linden adds a note about the influence of Hakhel, a global incubator for intentional Jewish communities, in helping make this Urban Kibbutz a reality. [2]

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(18:27 - 31:47): Levy Linden considers the word “kibbutz,” and explains why they chose to go by that moniker instead of other options. [3] The two guests, along with Dan, explore the similarities and differences between the urban kibbutz, and something like a condo association (which Dan dubs an “unintentional community”). Rutman explores why she doesn’t think that there should be a “manual” with ready-made rituals for communities like this, but does assert that a guide for how to design your own rituals would be helpful. [4] Both Levy Linden and Rutman look back at some of the landmark moments of Urban Kibbutz thus far, especially emphasizing a Tu Bish’vat Seder that they organized in Golden Gate Park.

(31:48 - 46:18): Looking at the demographics of their group, Levy Linden discusses how they have more interfaith (or multi-faith) families than otherwise. Dan brings back some of Judaism Unbound’s ongoing conversations about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, asking to what extent this urban kibbutz arose because local Jewish institutions weren’t able to effectively meet some of these families’ Jewish needs. [5] To close the episode, the two guests offer some words of advice to those who might be interested in starting a similar kind of group in their area. Levy Linden and Rutman each call for groups to start by holding small events — perhaps with just one other family — and allowing growth to happen gradually over time. [6]

[1] Levy Linden cites an article in J Weekly that helped kickstart their urban kibbutz. Read that article, written by Drew Himmelstein and entitled “Squeezed Out: Housing Prices Gut Dream for Jewish Middle Class,” by clicking here.

[2] Learn more about Hakhel, an initiative of Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability, by clicking here.

[3] Levy Linden invokes the phrase “a Kibbutz Without Walls” to describe their work. Hear more about the idea of Jewish institutions without walls by listening to Episode 20: Jewish Without Walls - Beth Finger.

[4] For more on ideas of ritual design, see Episode 180: The Ritual Design Lab - Margaret Hagan, Kursat Ozenc.

[5] To further explore the ramifications of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for contemporary Jewish life, see Episode 109: Open Doors - Dan and Lex.

[6] Rutman describes her experience growing up in a Havurah, offering up how it may have influenced her participation in this urban kibbutz today. Learn more about the Havurah movement through two Judaism Unbound episodes - Episode 84: The Jewish Catalog, Then and Now - Riv-Ellen Prell and Episode 86: We’re the Jews We’ve Been Waiting For - Dan and Lex.