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Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi speaking at the Islamic Cultural Center

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Rabbi Zalman Schachter-ShalomiThe following is an excerpt from an article on JWeekly about an upcoming talk that Reb Zalman Schachter will be giving at a symposium held by the Starr King School of the Ministry at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California. Reb Zalman calls this talk his ‘Swan song’ so if anyone is close enough to attend it’s certainly an occasion not to be missed.

The whispers became a rumor, then news that traveled excitedly through Bay Area Jewish Renewal circles: Reb Zalman is coming to town. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the 87-year-old granddaddy of Jewish Renewal — the New Age, neo-Chasidic movement he founded three decades ago — is considered one of the few Jewish sages alive today. In the 1970s he fused the mystical traditions of his Lubavitch background with modern sensibilities concerning the environment, technology and psychology in an effort to reinvigorate a Judaism he found stultifying.

Without dismissing Jewish rituals, he told his followers not to be content with surface observance. Look deep inside yourselves, he said. Dance, sing, find the joy within Judaism — don’t be spiritually lazy.

Born in Poland, a survivor of the Holocaust, an ordained Lubavitch rabbi and a Sufi shaykh, Reb Zalman (as he is known to his followers) has never been afraid to cross boundaries. He’s sure to cross some more next week when he delivers four talks in Oakland — three at the Islamic Cultural Center and the last at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. They will be the foundation of his next book, he says.

For 60 years, Reb Zalman has lectured and written widely on subjects including Hasidism, Jewish law and Jewish practice. A promoter of ecumenical dialogue, his conversation with the Dalai Lama was documented in the book “The Jew in the Lotus.” His most popular book, “Jewish with Feeling,” published in 2007, is an introduction to Jewish practice, Reb Zalman–style.

While he continues to mentor students all over the world, Schacter-Shalomi rarely travels anymore, telling j. in a Skype interview from his home in Boulder, Colo., “I’m going to be 88, baruch HaShem, and I’m working with a battery that doesn’t hold a big charge.”

He’s coming here, he says, because of his affection for Ibrahim Farajajé, his friend, fellow Sufi shaykh and provost of the Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Berkeley, which is offering Reb Zalman an honorary doctorate.

Reb Zalman shrugs off the suggestion that it’s unusual for a rabbi to speak at an Islamic center. He’s spent decades building relationships with followers of other faiths, looking to find commonalities that strengthen the contributions each can make to the world.”

The rest of the article by Sue Fishkoff, and details of the venue and tickets can be read here.

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