NEW YORK (JTA) — Over the past two weeks I’ve been both heartened and horrified by the spectrum of response to what, I felt, was a spontaneous and sincere statement of unity and joy — my proclamation of “aliyah” to Reform Judaism, made at the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism.
I’m honored that the piece originally published in JTA has been printed and reprinted in several languages all over the world, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to reflect.
On the one hand, I have received messages of love and gratitude and gorgeous expressions of faith from Jews far to the left of where I stand. Similarly, many of my friends from the Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements blessed me for the expansion of my spiritual agenda.
To all those who have supported me on my spiritual journey, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am humbled and deeply grateful for your sentiments.
However, I would be lying if I did not confess how deeply hurt I have been by the strident, hateful emails, Facebook posts and Internet comments I’ve also received. I tremble to relate that this week I’ve been accused of being a Christian, a Nazi, a “vile shame to my father’s name and legacy,” a “desecrator of all the Torah stands for,” and an evil human being trying to destroy my own people. I’ve been demeaned, harassed and called more terrible names than I dare to repeat.
I’ve read and reread all these messages and did not respond — until now.
Upon reflection, I realize that so much of this is beyond me, beyond the piece I wrote, and simply coming from a place of deep, shattered brokenness, confusion and pain. Clearly, I touched a nerve. But I want to set the record straight because it seems I’ve been misunderstood on many levels.
My father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, was a human being blessed with the strength to be present and inspired by every moment and every person he met. Every soul he encountered was “the deepest,” every celebration was “the highest,” every experience was “the best.” He was genuinely able to embrace and see the good in a way that nobody else could, and from that place his gift was his ability to talk about connecting to a higher power — that is, God.
What I experienced at the Reform biennial, frankly, is the same thing that I always have loved most about my father’s unique way of expressing his Judaism. The biennial’s inclusiveness, striving for unity, love of humanity without judgment, and honest respect for the individual/collective journey of the soul were hallmarks of his approach. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the movement, spoke about the importance of “audacious hospitality” above all else, and these words reflect my own mission in this world.
I would like to believe that I share this mission with my detractors. Aren’t we all trying in our own way to bring meaning, peace and unity to the world?