One of the successes that Rabbi Plumb touched on was how it allowed for people to bring their whole selves into the community. One of the middot (attributes) that the congregation adopted was the idea of b’tzelem elohim that each and every human being is divine and that every part of their lives is filled with holiness (holy sparks, some might say) - no part of which they should feel ashamed or judged for.
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the President & Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash (Jewish pluralistic adult learning & leadership), the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek (Jewish Social Justice), the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim Institute (Jewish animal advocacy), the Founder and President of YATOM, (Jewish foster and adoption network), and the author of sixteen books on Jewish ethics. Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America and the Forward named him one of the 50 most influential Jews.
Alexander Zeldin is the former Senior Communications Associate at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). He is currently a strategic planning senior analyst for American Express. Alex graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science. As talented and creative as he is in his day job, Alex is also an active writer and political pundit. You can find his work in publications such as The Jewish Daily Forward and Tablet Magazine. You can always reach out to him directly at his Twitter account: @Wonko_the_sane_ just be sure you are bringing your A-game, because he sure will be.
“If you want to create a space where people can talk about things that are harder to share and harder to hear - celebrating that at the end of the day with a little bit of fun just seems natural. You just need a space to release. That’s why sometimes I talk about just the need for a party at the end of the day, or some kind of fun evening program. It’s not that innovative. Anybody that has been leading Jewish shabbatons has figured that out. It’s even in the Jewish tradition. That’s why Friday night we have an Oneg or Saturday night you have some kind of celebration.”
As a deep and serious thinker, Andrew Lustig opined about his ideological role models: “the people who I admire and I considered teachers are people who are always complicating issues, who are always answering with ‘well, you know, it's complicated’ or you know, ‘on one hand, but on the other hand.’ Taking those serious questions as his foundation, he uses that as fodder for creating real and imaginative works of poetry.