Monday, March 20, 2006

Rabbi as a Shabbat Animator

March 20, 2006

In starting Panim Hadashot one of my goals was to alter the role of the modern rabbi. The pulpit rabbi has many functions, but the most well known is his/her role as officiant at a religious service. The focus of Panim Hadashot shifted from the communal worship service to the home Shabbat table. The innovative idea of Panim Hadashot was to bring the rabbi into the home of a host to lead a seder-a ritual feast with a gathering of adults or families. Being present at different tables week after week summons a very different challenge for a rabbi. The words officiant, or master of ceremonies certainly does not describe what I do. Rather I would like to coin a word for what I do: I am a Shabbat animator.

I first heard the word used a couple of years ago to describe a very dynamic woman who started a minyan in Jerusalem. She was described to me as a social animator. Her leadership consisted in networking people, inviting them to participate, encouraging their contributions. Because of her vital energy she gathered around her a new and dynamic religious community which is now widely respected in many circles. I did some further research on the term animator and ran into this definition:

This term appears either in the context of culture animation (supporting artistic creativity and development of particular persons and groups) or social - cultural animation (stimulating cultural activity of local communities). However, by Latin origins of the word (anima), it always means encouraging, inviting to an activity.

Social Animator
My work today as a rabbi consists of inviting (the Hebrew word is mzuman or mazmin) and encouraging people to share a Shabbat experience around the table with me. Both the preparaton for the seder and the conduct of the seder is a very intentional application of the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim-the bringing in of guests. I give a lot of thought on how people around the table can feel welcome and can fully access the experience of Shabbat and community which the Sabbath seder and feast ideally produces. How do you achieve fellowship among the people who attend? How do you create the conditions for people to have an authentic experience of the Sabbath? How do you inspire people to build a Shabbat table practice? How do you help people to take on Shabbat as a mitzvah? How do you move people to grasp the great ethical and spiritual teachings of this day?

That is the task of the rabbi as Shabbat animator. A Shabbat animator does not need to be a rabbi, but a rabbi can very effectively model this for other Jews. A rabbi who focuses on this work must:1. Know how to translate the tradtion to many different sorts of people including non-Jews.2. Know how to improvise-to use the element of song, food, story to convey values, teachings, and insights,3. Know how to relax people and also how to heighten awareness in the ritual moment. 4. Must be on the Hillel side of the spectrum as opposed to the Shammai-a welcoming and non-judgmental attitude. That means you must have no need to show off your erudition, but rather to use it to inspire greater interest down the road. 5. Know how not to overfunction and let the beauty and wisdom of the tradition speak for itself.6. Know that you will not touch everyone you encounter so that you focus on those you touch with your teaching.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Friday, March 17, 2006

Shabbat Beit Midrash

Sabbath Encounters with Great Jewish Texts and Ideas

Upcoming Session: 3/18/06
Location: Beit Midrash of Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, 3827 NE 90th St. Seattle, WA
Time 1:15-2:45pm
Teacher: Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Who is invited?

We welcome all Jews, secular or religious and all those in between. We also welcome interfaith couples and non-Jews interested in a meaningful engagement with Judaism. We welcome all those who thrive on engaging different points of view. No rsvp is required. Light refreshments are served.

Introduction to the Topic and Texts:
Pursuing Peace in an Unredeemed World.

Judaism places a high value on the act of pursuing peace. But there is a great distinction between the biblical teaching of the prophets which presents us with a utopian vision of peace and the rabbi's views of peacemaking called in the Talmud 'darchei shalom'-the ways of peace. In a teaching and discussion relevant to our own troubled times we will look at texts which talk about peacemaking in a world of diversity and conflict. From texts we will move to our lives and discuss how we succeed and fail in our peacemaking efforts and how we may apply the approaches suggested by the texts.

On the Frontiers of Rabbinic Work

On the Frontiers of Rabbinic Work
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
March 17, 2006

Many rabbis and commentators go to this week's Torah portion to reflect on the role of leadership in a community. In Ki Tisa in the Book of Exodus Moses is caught between an angry God and a people he feels compelled to serve. He is the thread that holds the together the relationship. He advocates on behalf of the people, yet he is the agent of God's word. He must mediate the reality of God for a people that feels distant from God.

The role of the rabbi is based on the life of Moses in many ways. The rabbi must understand the dual directional nature of leadership based on the model of Moshe. On one hand the rabbi mediates God's word, tradition, Jewish values (whatever term you want to use) to the people. He or she is a teacher who has something special to teach or bring down (tablets) or to translate. On the other hand the rabbi is an advocate for the Jewish people to God, reminding of their worthiness and of the covenantal relationship which is binding on God as well.

A rabbi then in the classical sense is a connector bringing God and Jews together, trying to keep the relationship alive and fresh. That is how I conceive of my work as a rabbi who focuses on outreach.

Outreach is an awkward and ambiguous term. The term in the Jewish community is best defined as connecting-restoring, reengaging, even creating a relationship between a person and his living tradition. A rabbi is an advocate and a repository of that tradition. The people I reach out to are those who I think potentially will not only find meaning in this relationship, but will help make the world a better place because of a renewed relationship to it. This is very Hutzpadik when you think about it. Who am I to think that reconnecting to Judaism would help improve a person?

The question is even more important in a world where some clergy take on enormous power and even control nation states. There is much antipathy and distrust toward clergy for the abuses of power and the push to control or to coerce people. Doing Jewish outreach as I understand it is not at all a clergy power grab or an attempt to save people from their evil paths.

One of the unique approaches of Panim Hadashot is the presentation of Judaism pluralistically. I only know a few places that do this such as the Hartman Institute. I have confidence that the many voices within Judaism create meaningful and compelling answers on how to be a human being. I don't believe there is one way, but there are paths we must choose to take. I am passionate about presenting those multiple voices and derive great satisfaction in seeing people become engaged in the choices that Judaism present to a thoughtful and searching person.

The work of outreach is associated with rabbis who believe there is one way to be Jewish. The frontier of my rabbinic work is how to present Judaism passionately and affirm and validate different paths of leading a meaningful and world improving form of Judaism.
I will continue reflecting on this issue over the next couple of weeks.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hartman Seminar Information

To Hartman Participants
March 17, 2006

Here are the questions that go with the texts in the study guide for Moshe Halbertal's 3rd presentation on March 19th entitled: The Holy and the Ethical.
Please come at 9:00am.
Please call 206 852-9581 if you have trouble getting into the building.

HEVRUTA GUIDE: The Holy and the Ethical
March 19th Session with Moshe Halbertal

1. Read Leviticus 19:2 (not included in the materials. Have bi-lingual Bibles avaialable) and the surrounding verses. What is the context? What does it mean to be holy according to the Biblical verse?

2. Read Deuteronomy 6:18. What is that which is "right and good" according to the Biblical context?

3. Read the Ramban on Leviticus 19:2. How does he understand holiness?
How has he expanded the interpretation of the verse?

4. Read the Ramban on Deuteronomy 6:18. How, according the Ramban, should one interpret the Biblical verse? What idea of the ethical emerges from his interpretation?

Enjoy your learning

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Friday, March 10, 2006

Hartman Seminar News: 3/10/06

To Participants in the Hartman Long Distance Seminar on
Religion, Ethics, and Violence


Beit Midrash Session 3/11
Study Questions for 3/19 session
Information about Israel seminar in June
Announcement of Topic and First Date on 2006 Seminar

1. Beit Midrash Session: Shabbat afternoon 3/11; 3-5pm at Rabbi's Beit Midrash, 3827 NE 90th St.

The Format of the Beit Midrash

The first hour of the Beit Midrash will be devoted to the previous session on February 26th with Moshe Halbertal. Moshe modeled for us how the tradition confronts morally distrubing texts and uses interpretation to alter the law.

The second hour will focus on preparing for the upcoming session, reveiwing the texts in the study guide and having an initial discussion on the issues they raise.

This is also an opportunity to get to know our fellow students better and to enjoy refreshment in one of the homes of our participants including my own.

2. March 19th Session

Here are the questions that go with the texts in the study guide for Moshe Halbertal's 3rd presentation entitled: The Holy and the Ethical

HEVRUTA GUIDE: The Holy and the Ethical

March 19th Session with Moshe Halbertal
1. Read Leviticus 19:2 (not included in the materials. Have bi-lingual Bibles avaialable) and the surrounding verses. What is the context? What does it mean to be holy according to the Biblical verse?

2. Read Deuteronomy 6:18. What is that which is "right and good" according to the Biblical context?

3. Read the Ramban on Leviticus 19:2. How does he understand holiness?
How has he expanded the interpretation of the verse?

4. Read the Ramban on Deuteronomy 6:18. How, according the Ramban, should one interpret the Biblical verse? What idea of the ethical emerges from his interpretation?

Enjoy your learning~

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum will be subbing for me in the final hour of the March 19th session while I attend the Jewish Film Festival where Panim Hadashot is sponsoring the Sunday morning film. Rabbi Nussbaum has been my Havruta over the past year in the Hartman rabbinic program remote learning class and is familiar with the Hartman approach. She is an outstanding teacher and colleague.

3. Information about the Israel Program at the end of June 2006

New! Please note the Hartman website has a special section on the summer seminar now available for all of our participants. It includes some basic information and registration form access. Once registered, the participant will receive additional information and recommendations. We are constantly improving and upgrading our website and look forward to your responses.

Please direct your inquiries to,, to the section on programs, to Lay Leadership Retreats and to the specific registration for the long distance program, which is indicated as such. You can access it directly via:

4. Announcing the Topic and First Date of the 2006 Seminar
The topic of next year's seminar will be Standing Before God: The Complexities of a Spiritual Life. There will 8 long distance broadcasts starting on Sunday morning, November 12, 2006. Next year the program will be a joint effort of Panim Hadashot and the Shalom Hartman Institute. We are working on location, costs, and an invitation to leaders across the community to participate.

For questions and comments please write to or call 206 525-0648.

Living the Jewish Year

Dear LTJYers,

Please note the upcoming activities this week:

Shabbat Beit Midrash: Sat. 3/11 1:15-2:45pm at the Panim Hadashot Beit Midrash, 3827 NE 90th St; Seattle.

Topic: Building a Spiritual and Ethical Reputation

LTJY Monthly Meeting: Sun 3/12, 10:30-12:00pm. Panim Hadashot Beit Midrash.

Purim Megillah Reading 'Field Trip with Rabbi Gartenberg' : Mon 3/13 6:30pm at the Kol Haneshama Congregation Link with directions to Kol Haneshamah.

Synagogue of the Month Information. LTJYers are encouraged to visit a service or program at each of the congregations listed during a particular month. These visits will be part of our discussion at the monthly meeting. Please see attached.

Download synagogue_of_the_month_2006.doc

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Panim Hadashot Weekly Enewsletter: 3/1/06

New Faces of Judaism: Weekly E-Newsletter
Wednesday, March 1, 2006, Rosh Hodesh-New Moon of Adar. Covering Activities from March 1-7, 2006
Brief Message from Rabbi Gartenberg,

I continue to be astonished with how many people tell me how hard it is to plug into Jewish life in Seattle. Because I do so much outreach I am able to talk to lots of 'independent Jews'. Many are formerly affiliated. But the common comment is about the difficulty of finding fellowship in Jewish institutions. I know that many people in the organized community, particulary Jewish professionals try ceaselessly to open the doors and to welcome people, but there must be some greater systemic problem based on the common refrain I hear.

Panim Hadashot works hard to practice and spread the practice of Jewish hospitality-hachnasat orchim- not as a strategy, but as an ethical commitment which is based on the regard for the other. We do this in our unique Shabbat outreach which encourages hosts across the city to invite new faces to their table and also in our approach to Jewish learning which focuses on the cooperative and interactive dimension of Jewish learning. Judaism is the religion of 'relationship', of 'covenant', of 'I and Thou'. It behooves us as Jews to strive to be better at regarding and responding to the 'other'.

I welcome you to experience Panim Hadashot's old-new way of experiencing Judaism. Check out what is below.

One other note: The month of Adar has begun. Increase your joy!!!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

This week

Fri. 3/3 . 6:15pm
Shabbat around Seattle: Crossroads in Bellevue: Covner/Dougherty Household. Full

Sat. 3/4 : 1:15pm , Panim Hadashot Beit Midrash: 70 Faces of Torah for Families . Families exploring Torah together. LINK

Upcoming Activities

Sat. 3/4, 1:15pm 70 Faces of Torah for Families. Sun. 3/12 2:00pm Shaarei Tikvah-Gates of Hope. A Purim Celebration for those with Special Needs, their families, and the supportive community. LINK

Sat 3/11, 3/18, and 3/25 The Joy of Sabbath Torah Study-Shabbat Beit Midrash. Come study great selections from the Jewish ethical tradition: LINK

Monday 3/12 The Reading of the Megillah. Go to a synagogue to hear the festive reading!!!
Sun 3/19 10:00am Join Panim Hadashot at Rashevski's Tango at the Seattle Jewish Film Festival. LINK

Tues. 3/28 Downtown Bellevue Barnes and Nobel Jewish Book Group with Rabbi Gartenberg. Free and open to the public: LINK

Are you interested in learning more about the Jewish Way of Life: Consider the award winning LIVING THE JEWISH YEAR PROGRAM of Panim Hadashot. For more info click the LINK
Support the Practice of Jewish Hospitality. Help Share the Love of Jewish Learning with a Wider Circle: Support the Groundbreaking Work of Panim Hadashot. Become a Haver-Friend of Panim Hadashot: LINK
Panim Hadashot, New Faces of Judaism, is a new endeavor of Jewish learning, celebration, and outreach. Our website is at Panim Hadashot is the winner of the Levitan Innovation Award and is endorsed by the Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Panim Hadashot is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Founder and Rabbi, Dov Gartenberg: or 206 525-0648
To contact us: Call 206 280-3715 or email To subscribe or unsubscribe, send request to