By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Congregation Anshai Torah opens its doors to the Dallas Jewish community and welcomes IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous the weekend of Jan. 29 for the Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence weekend of learning, prayer and community. The theme of the scholar in residence weekend is “Excavate, Reanimate, Rejuvenate: Pathways to the Jewish Future.”
“Arnie Sweet, of blessed memory, was a fond admirer of Jewish scholarship and he had tremendous respect for the intellect; he was always learning, always growing, and thrived on the exercise of his mind. As each of us strives to continue along our lifelong intellectual journey, this weekend of learning is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful human being,” said Congregation Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg. “Most assuredly due to the profile Arnie characterized, Anshai Torah’s Scholar-in-Residence program continues to bring our Jewish community together, welcoming Jews from across our Jewish community to the Anshai Torah sanctuary.”
Rabbi Brous is the founder of the Los Angeles-based IKAR, a leading-edge Jewish community that seeks to inspire people across the religious spectrum and is reverberating across the country.
The “Weekend with Rabbi Sharon Brous,” presented by Janice and Art Weinberg, Cindy and Mitch Moskowitz, Cathy and Joel Brook, and many sponsors will feature a Lunch and Learn at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29 with Rabbi Brous discussing “Game Changers: An exploration of failed and successful models of leadership in Biblical and Rabbinic text. What can we learn from them about social and communal change today?” That evening, at Kabbalat Shabbat services, keynote address and dinner beginning at 6:15 p.m. she will address “A Community of Edgers: What we see when we view the world from the margins,” and “Getting Back to the Heart of the Matter: When religion in the public square is so often seen as hate-filled, exclusionary, narrow-minded and even violent, how can we reclaim a soulful, purposeful, inclusive vision of religious life?,” followed by a special session for young adults.
At Shabbat morning services beginning at 9:30 a.m., Rabbi Brous will share thoughts on the “Amen Effect — I Can’t Heal You but I Can See You: Reclaiming the power of community — how saying amen to someone’s Kaddish could change both of your lives,” and after a Kiddush luncheon “The Virtue of (Dis)unity: How Big Is the Jewish Tent?: An exploration of traditional Jewish texts and ideas around unity and community,” with a question-and-answer session to follow. Saturday evening, a dessert reception will be held for sponsors and synagogue leadership at a private home.
“Each weekend has left its many participants with a wealth of memories, insightful thoughts, and inspiration, all waiting for next year’s speaker to be introduced. This year’s distinguished guest is indeed dynamic, charismatic, and outspoken,” said Rabbi Weinberg of Rabbi Brous, who has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading rabbis by Newsweek/The Daily Beast and among the 50 most influential American Jews by the Forward. In 2013 she topped The Daily Beast’s list, which credited her with reanimating Jewish community and re-energizing prayer at a time of growing disaffection and declining affiliation. She sits on the faculty of the Hartman Institute-North America, Wexner Heritage and REBOOT, is a Senior Fellow at Auburn Theological Seminary, and serves on the International Council of the New Israel Fund and rabbinic advisory council to American Jewish World Service. “A highly sought-after teacher, we are exceedingly honored to welcome her to Anshai Torah!”
Fusing piety and chutzpah, tradition and imagination, activism and spiritual practice, Rabbi Brous and her congregation seek to reclaim the essence (the ikar) of Judaism and to help redefine what it means to be Jewish.
“IKAR’s mission is to bring imagination and creativity into a very old idea — the idea that human beings ought to live in full dignity, driven by a profound sense of purpose and grounded in holy community,” said Rabbi Brous, who in 2013 blessed President Obama and Vice President Biden at the Inaugural National Prayer Service. “It’s important to not take any level of knowledge, experience, or observance for granted and to meet the great spiritual and intellectual challenges among us all. I understand that all in the room are learned in many different ways and each voice needs to be ‘heard’ and needed to create a powerful conversation.
“What is beautiful about visiting as a scholar-in-residence is that I can share across the country, responding to the issues of American Jewry and address the need for an infusion of creativity and a sense of purpose. Congregation Anshai Torah is on a growth trajectory and is a most purposeful place and I’m so looking forward to share Shabbat with its ‘family.’”
“Especially in light of Rabbi Brous’ influence with the young unaffiliated Jewish population of Los Angeles we look forward to welcoming our young Jewish population of the Metroplex and we extend a special welcome to all young Jewish men and women who are seeking a connection to our Jewish community,” said Rabbi Weinberg, noting that Friday evening, after dinner, there will be a program for the Gesher constituent, young adults ages 22 to 35. “We look forward to being exposed to her wisdom and insights — learning from her, growing with her, and experiencing her inspirational and motivating approach to Jewish life.”
Recognizing the disconnect of so many, Rabbi Brous says the rejection isn’t of discipline, gratitude, or the idea of God, but of the 20th-century framework of those ideas.
“The problem isn’t Judaism but the ‘container’ that holds it. We must realize how to share and perpetuate Jewish ideas to the impulses and needs of the next generation,” said Rabbi Brous. “The reality is that the model of our ancestors’ Jewish life just doesn’t resonate. I hope to awaken and affirm a connection to our core Jewish ideas and to inspire empowerment.”
It is that empowerment that event chair Warren Harmel, who worked with Barrett Stern and a team of many, hopes to provide. “Rabbi Brous’ energy and viewpoint is important in our environment and we hope young adults will join their parents and grandparents in this meaningful weekend to return and rejuvenate and find relevance in her incredibly important messages.”
Since its inception Anshai Torah has introduced many of the Jewish world’s outstanding teachers and thinkers. The Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence weekend has hosted Rabbis Danny Gordis, Yitz Greenberg, Yossi Klein Halevi, Donniel Hartman, and Ed Feinstein, a who’s who in the Jewish world of influence.
“Arnie would be proud of the top thinkers and shakers in Judaism that have come to speak. The more he learned, and he learned all of his life, the more it meant to him. He’s definitely still with us through this program — a symbol of appreciating who and what we are,” said Janice Sweet Weinberg, who recently welcomed her first great-grandson, Sahar Bellman, born in Israel. “It’s my hope for my family, and for all of our people — our extended family — that the rich tradition that binds us will forever support us. Rabbi Brous definitely speaks to all of us including the younger generation and how they perceive Judaism and how it reaches their hearts. We’ve come too far to have a disaffected future and when I hear Rabbi Brous’ messages, I am more than confident that we are, and will be, a stronger people.”
For information or to RSVP for any of the events (child care will be provided Friday night and Saturday morning) call 972-473-7718 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a $30/person charge for congregation members, $38/person for nonmembers, and $8/child for dinner on Friday night; there is no charge for Friday lunch or services, or Saturday’s events. Reservations are required for all events. For sponsorships, contact Warren Harmel at email@example.com.
For more information, visit anshaitorah.org. Congregation Anshai Torah is located at 5501 W. Parker Road in Plano.