Mussar: A Contemporary Path to a Spiritual Judaism

— by Miki Young

For many spiritual seekers, the complaint about Judaism is that it doesn’t seem like it has what it takes to be a springboard for a life of meaningful relevance. The lack of easily accessible contemporary theology seems to create a great divide between honoring the ancient and finding a way to appreciate the practice of Judaism as an integral part of everyday life. Other traditions and practices such as Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness seem to give both solace and a sense of growing personal empowerment that many Jewish practitioners seek in a harried time.

More after the jump.
Mussar, a daily spiritual practice based on an ethical concern for others does, in fact, tether that bridge between Jewish spirituality and religion.  Developed in 18th century Eastern Europe, Mussar which literally means “discipline” offers practitioners a way of looking at the world which transforms everyday actions into moments of holiness.

“I wanted to feel more spiritual about my life,” said Phyllis Jacobs, a student of Mussar Leadership, a program of Beth Zion Beth Israel in Philadelphia for the last four years. “But as a Jew I didn’t really know exactly what that meant. With Mussar, I’ve discovered a Jewish spiritual discipline with guideposts and reminders that help me to look at what’s important to me in the world, how I treat people. Mussar helps me to see something everyday that makes me feel like I am connected to something bigger than myself. In many ways, Mussar helps me to navigate my everyday life in a way that makes me more the person I really want to be.”

The pursuit of spirituality, defined as living a life that seems to offer a sense of something “bigger than oneself,” is a commonly expressed sentiment by those who attend the Mussar Leadership groups, held throughout the area and via videoconference in different parts of the country.  The tenuous connection often raised is how does practicing Judaism as an individual or even in a minyan really set the groundwork for that spiritual connection?

“Mussar is an incredible impactful practice for all of us who are living in an ethically, spiritually bankrupt society,” said Rabbi Ira Stone, who is considered one of the few contemporary Mussar theologians and authors in North America. The daily practice creates a very centered sense of mindfulness with regard to how we impact each other and the responsibility we must take for our own behavior and for each other. “Mussar is not the end but the beginning of a spiritual path,” he added. “It is a compelling reason for people to reengage in classical Jewish text and practice in a way that is often missing in the non-orthodox world.  And, I think through that engagement, we could actually save the world.”

The practice of Mussar is “catching on.” Synagogues of many different denominations have lectures, workshops and ongoing classes. At Mussar Leadership those classes are offered at synagogues and independent groups that are identified as Conservative, Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform and unaffiliated.  Currently there is also a group of Rabbis in LA who are studying Mussar for their personal and communal development as well as training to be facilitators of the practice.

Many group participants said that their connection to Judaism has deepened as a result of attending Mussar groups.  “As part of this group, my level of study and interest in Judaism has certainly increased,” said Carol Daniels, who is training to be a Mussar madrich or group leader.  “I now study Torah and have a daily reflection of gratitude that has allowed me to use my own religion as a guide in my life that wasn’t available to me before.”

In addition to the benefit of becoming much more mindful about the responsibility a person has to society as a whole and to the individuals around him or her, participants say that the experience has given them a much deeper connection of community.

For Martin Jacobs who participates in a Mussar Leadership group at Or Hadash in Ft. Washington, what has been most valuable is finding connections with others and opening himself up to share the experiences of day-to-day life in a very safe, supportive environment.  “The insights others are able to give me about how I choose to live and act give me a very different viewpoint than I have by myself,” he said. His fellow group member Marianne Adler agrees.  “The group is key,” she said. “When I miss it I don’t like it.  Being part of the group is essential because I get to listen to everybody else and everybody has different things to work on and everybody brings something different to the group.”

Mussar Leadership groups are held at Beth Zion Beth Israel in center city and around the area.  For more information, email [email protected] or call 215-735-5148.

Additionally, Reclaiming Judaism is offering distance-learning certification programs for Jewish Educators that incorporate training in Mussar title 3 Mmm: Maggid, Mitzvah and Mussar.  

Rabbi Ira Stone Describes AIPAC Conference

— by Rabbi Ira Stone

I begin with a belated beracha: “Shehechiyanu v’kimanu lazman hazeh,” giving thanks to God that I lived long enough to attend an AIPAC Policy Conference.

When in the long history of the Jewish people has it been possible for 13,000 Jews to gather together in peace, for our own purposes and to exercise our natural right as citizens to present our concerns to the representatives of our government?  2,000 years of Jewish lives would call this a miracle.  It is the miracle of America and we should not take it for granted.

Before I share any other highlights from the conference, let me describe one in particular that could equally justify my saying the beracha.  The opportunity to be in the same hall with Shimon Perez was unforgettable.  To stand and applaud a man who stood next to David Ben-Gurion in the founding of the State of Israel, to re-live imaginatively the transformations that he has lived and from Polish refugee, to Kibbutznik, to soldier in the War of Independence, to political leader, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, architect of peace even when it fails, committed to strength for the purpose of achieving peace — I felt like I was given the opportunity to listen to George Washington, but a George Washington whose rabbi grandfather, at the train station when he left Poland for Palestine, whispered in his ear: “Be Jewish.”  He never saw his grandfather again.  His grandfather was locked in his shtetl’s synagogue with the rest of his congregation and the synagogue was burned to the ground.  President Perez made it clear that “being Jewish,” articulating through his love and devotion to Israel those values that define what is means to be Jewish, has been his life’s work and is our life’s work.  Whether via an Israeli national identity or an American national identity, “being Jewish” is the transcendent theme of a Jewish life.

More after the jump.

Susan Rice on Israel

I will return in a moment to other highlights that occurred in the astonishing plenary sessions with 13,000 Jews listening to other historic talks.  However, most of the conference is not spent in plenary sessions, but in the more substantive break-out sessions.  The session I want to highlight this morning was a briefing by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.  We heard the details, and began to internalize the details of the day to day work that the Ambassador and her staff have to do — every single day — to combat the sheer multitude of anti-Israel rhetoric, resolutions and policy initiatives by a large segment of the UN membership and comprehended just how committed the United States is to daily standing by Israel.  But learning the depth of Ambassador Rice’s personal commitment to Israel was not only more moving, but more instructive.  She began her remarks by quoting in impeccable Hebrew, Hinei matov u’manayim shevet achim gam yachad — even pronouncing the chet appropriately.  She then described her first trip to Israel with her father when she was 14 years old.  This African American woman, though not Jewish, climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea and journeyed through Yad Vashem as a teenager, thus putting the lie to the knee-jerk Jewish assumption that we are always alone, that no one else “out there” gets it.  The basic assumption of AIPAC is precisely that there are many Americans that “get it” and with a little more effort by a lot more Jews that number could increase exponentially.  But the most incredible moment came when Ambassador Rice finished her talk.  As those gathered rose to applaud, 400 Rabbis of every denomination spontaneously began singing hinei mah tov u’manayim.  It was a spine-tingling, unforgettable moment.

Considerations about Iran

The primary function of AIPAC and the AIPAC Policy Conference is to work to make clear the shared values and shared vision of the United States and Israel and the strengthening of the alliance between the two countries on this basis and with a clear-eyed recognition of the fact that this alliance is the single most important factor in securing Israel’s survival.  Whatever critique one might ever have brought to these assertions in the past, their truth is obvious in this moment of history in the looming shadow of Iranian insanity.  Much of the focus of the conference was on Iran and the development of a joint U.S/Israeli strategy regarding Iran.  It was this theme that many of the plenary speakers spoke about including, of course, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Certainly just having the opportunity to hear the President and the Prime Minister, despite the security line hassles, has to also be included in any list of highlights.

I believe that it is imperative that we realize how essential the support of the United States for Israel is in whatever is coming in the situation with Iran.  It is assuring this support that AIPAC is all about.  Certainly it is clear that at the moment both the President and the Congress do sincerely support Israel, but that support is likely going to be put to the test.  President Obama is rightly using every non-military option at his disposal to precipitate a change in the policies of the Iranian leadership.  This is the wise thing for a responsible leader to do.  I applaud him, but I’m afraid that the policy will not work.  After all, if Adolph Hitler was willing to sacrifice almost certain victory in Europe by wasting a huge amount of resources to persecute Jews, it should be clear that reason will not be a factor in the Iranian’s policy.  Moreover, Iran has so much to gain in the long run through the acquisition of nuclear weapons — complete hegemony over the Middle East, complete control of the distribution of oil in the world — that the short term suffering that they will need to absorb will be worth it.  

If and when the President’s attempt to use non-military measures to solve the crisis fails, the impact on America will be significant.  Maintaining the support of the President and more importantly Congress when the American public begins to experience the consequence of Iranian intransigence will require constant effort.  All of us will have to become not only lobbyists of Congress, but lobbyists of our neighbors, our co-workers, even our own friends and family.  Second, it is imperative that starting now we help to change the nature of the discourse surrounding these issues.  Israel is not threatening nor refraining from a pre-emptive military action.  Israel is restraining itself at no little risk from a defensive response to an aggressor.  Israel has no border with Iran.  Whatever issues there are between Israel and her neighbors have nothing to do with Iran except that Iran has continually supplied military supplies to those terrorist groups that are on Israel’s borders, Hezbollah and Hamas. It has continually supplied money and material to a world-wide network of terrorists who have carried out attacks against Israel, against Jews in other countries and against the United States.  Coupled with these real and recognized acts of war, Iran has consistently repeated its chief foreign policy goal: the annihilation of the Jewish State.  In the face of these undeniable acts of war, Israel has and continues to show unprecedented restraint.  When Israel determines that its survival will no longer allow such restraint it will act and when it does it will not be launching an attack but finally defending itself from attack.

When, God forbid, this happens, there will be consequences for all of us.  I hope you can tell from my remarks today that this was an almost unprecedented experience.  In the words of so many of the speakers at the conference: “God bless the Jewish people and the State of Israel and God bless the United States of America.”

Ira Stone received his education at Queens College, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained a Rabbi in 1979.

He has served congregations in Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he has been the spiritual leader at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel since 1988. You can read some of his sermons on mussar.

A Rabbi’s Journey to Rome Building Bridges of Hope


Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action

— Rabbi Warren Stone

I was invited to Rome to speak by the U.S. Embassy and the Vatican’s  Pontifical Gregorian University for a major one-day conference on October 12, entitled:  “Building Bridges of Hope: Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action.”  The program’s vision was to include the Abrahamic faith traditions on three global issues panels, each of which included a Christian, Jewish and Muslim leader. The issues were:

  1. Equitable and Ethical Development,
  2. Caring for the Environment and
  3. Preventing Conflict.

Atttending the conference were worldwide ambassadors to the Vatican, Vatican Bishops and officials, seminary students from Gregorian and the international media.
U.S. Ambassador Miguel Diaz envisioned this conference as  a concrete expression of President Obama’s interfaith goals. He spoke about the critical importance of having religious voices work on world issues: “We believe that interfaith strategies can solve many of the world’s biggest problems.”

A special banquet was held at the US Vatican Embassy in honor of the speakers, with kosher/halal food thoughtfully provided to the Jewish and Muslim participants. Together we shared our interreligious visions for cooperation and bold action on environmental and climate challenges, the alleviation of world poverty and hunger, and the development of courageous paths to ease world conflicts.  The press was pleased to get many pictures of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders fully engaged in friendship and dialogue.

Joshua Dubois, head of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, offered greetings from President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  His keynote address encouraged faith communities to actively engage on these global political issues: “Every day, brick by brick by brick, men and women of faith continuously lay the moral and intellectual foundation of our public life and dialogue, and you are the first responders when for various reasons, that foundation is shaken.”

The vision of this conference was to turn interreligious dialogue into interreligious action.  I served on a panel with Father Joseph Rozansky, the justice chair of the World Franciscans, and Fazlun Khalid, founder and director of the UK’s Islamic Foundation for Ecology and the Environment.  We concurred that religious leadership from all traditions must act to alleviate environmental despoliation and the world-wide threats of climate change.

The other two Jewish representatives, each of whom sat on a panel, were Dr. Hillel Levine, founder of the International Center for Conciliation, and Dr. Edward Kessler, founder of Cambridge University’s Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.  The conference ended with Dr. Levine embracing Archbishop Chacour, a Palestinian priest, on the podium after the archibishop gave an emotionally moving talk about his life in Israel. Cameras went off to capture this moment of embrace.

We were given an “insider’s tour” of the Vatican, which included the Pope’s inner sanctum behind the Sistine Chapel, and I spent a bit of time seeing the Coliseum and the Jewish Ghetto. Of course, I went to see the Arch of Titus, which bears the famous sculpted relief of the Roman soldiers taking the Second Temple’s Golden Menorah and the phrase, “Judea Vanquished.”  It felt good to be in Rome in our time, where we as Jews stood in partnership with representatives of Christianity and Islam to confront our world problems.

We left united in the hope and with the commitment that the message of interreligious dialogue and action will grow throughout our communities.  It was a most inspiring and uplifting conference. We focused on the positive and the doable rather than the divisiveness found too often between faith traditions.

And now it’s time for all of us to act.  

“Building Bridges of Hope” An Interfaith Conference                                                  

           An ancient Jewish Midrash describes how God took Adam around the Garden of Eden and said to him:  “Look at My Creation, how beautiful and perfect is everything that I created.  I created it for you.  Be careful not to ruin and destroy My world.  If you ruin it, there is nobody to restore it after you.” (Ecclesiastes Rabba 7:28)        

           Those words ring mightily today, for the very future of life as we know it is at stake.  I fervently believe that climate change and our human despoliation of our sacred and fragile Earth has become the most profound religious issue of our times.  Like Adam, we have been warned and cannot plead ignorance.  Like Adam, will we fail to heed God’s words?  The mythic story of Creation warns us that we are guardians of all creation, human and all other species.

           Ancient Jewish traditions call for justice, equity and the Deuteronomic commandment, “Baal tashchit,” meaning, “thou shalt not destroy.”  The reference is to the trees and fruits of future generations and hence, human survival.  Ancient Jewish traditions call for the corners of the fields and the produce of our harvest to be left for the orphan, the widow and the most vulnerable of society.  Yet in our world, it will be the most vulnerable, with the least resources, who first reap the consequences of our environmental failures.  I am referring to the peoples of Micronesia and Bangladesh and hundreds of millions of other of the world’s most impoverished people living close to the seas, who are on the front lines of climate change and have become the first of our world’s environmental refugees. While at the UN in Copenhagen, I met with leaders from the Micronesian island of Kiribati who are already planning the emigration of their entire population.  They have already run out of fresh water and soon will be threatened with food scarcity.

           For all of us, impoverished and comfortable alike, our future will be tied to the scarcity of fresh water and food, as our glaciers melt and water sources, including the Jordan River in our holy lands which has been diminished.  Who is responsible for responding to these threats to our environment?  We may believe that our political leaders and bodies, which came together at the United Nations in Kyoto and Copenhagen and which will meet again in Cancun, or our individual nations’ leaders and lawmakers will have the political will to solve these issues. Others put the burden on our scientists and particularly, our environmentalists. But climate change and the despoliation of our earth and its limited resources are the most urgent moral and spiritual issues for all of us, and we are going to have to be active instruments for driving the necessary changes.   In this regard, people of our faith traditions have a great deal to say. Our futures and the futures of our families are at stake. This conference is meant to express the urgency of people of all faith traditions, represented here by the Abrahamic faiths, to take the bold lead in insisting that world leaders act to protect our earth-changing climate and threats to humanity that those changes portend.  Like Biblical Joseph of old, we have been forewarned and need to plan our survival particularly with water and food issues for our planet. The future will bring environmental refugees in numbers unknown in previous ages.  As a result of climate change and habitat destruction, a myriad of species now faces a silent genocide. We are caretakers of God’s creation. We must never forget that along with the creatures of our earth, the fish of our seas and the birds of our air, we, too are part of the great change of life. We are all interdependent for our common survival of life.

           It is incumbent upon every religious leader, religious institution and person of faith to serve as beacons to our communities, illustrating by our actions and example our spiritual commitment to our earth and its threatened and limited resources.

        In a world where matters of faith seem so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space.  I experienced this shared conviction most profoundly when in 1997, I served as the Jewish NGO representative at the United Nations climate talks in Kyoto and this past year at the UN in Copenhagen. I met with Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders from around the world.  We spoke at Kyoto’s largest Buddhist Temple and in forums throughout Copenhagen.  We led an interfaith march and vigil in our religious garb to the center of Copenhagen to share our concerns as faith leaders on this world stage.

           We all concurred from our diverse faith traditions that our human actions, our human failing and sins, have damaged the environment.  Each speaking from the voice of his or her own authentic spiritual tradition, we affirmed our religious responsibility to act. Amidst chanting from Christians of the Psalms and the reading of the Koran, I blew the shofar, a ram’s horn, the blast of sound that has been Judaism’s ancient call to action since the days we wandered, searching for our way in the desert.

           I carried this mandate for bold action on the environment back to my own country and my own religious community.  Here, too, I found that faith traditions can readily unite on issues of climate change.  Working for many years with the National Partnership on Religion and the Environment, and as Chair of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care, I have joined interfaith leaders to engage Washington’s Capitol Hill leaders and to meet with White House staff.  Political leaders are eager to hear our religious point of view. As interfaith leaders, we also met with the leadership of the World Bank asking them to devote resources to sustainability in the world and cultivating the development of the world’s alternative energy sources.

           Statements by Catholic Bishops, Protestant leaders, Rabbis and Muslim Leaders have symbolic power and carry political weight. Formal resolutions  affirmed by hundreds of thousands of persons of faith help embolden our legislators to act.  Our country witnessed what has been considered the worst oil spill in our world’s history, with the BP massive oil spill of millions of gallons into the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. There is an urgent need to regulate worldwide corporate energy companies and put prioritize caring for our sacred Earth as the primary moral concern. Now is the time for religious leadership to be heard, now is the time to engage our world bodies and speak out for Creation.

           As chair of the Environmental Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, I have joined with many committed colleagues to use our faith tradition to increase awareness and encourage action in response to climate change and other environmental challenges.  We have passed national resolutions on climate change and energy policy and have established environmentally conscious guidelines for our myriad congregations around the country.  We have worked with the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light to green religious communities around America in order to serve as a model of the millions of people who observe faith traditions.

               And finally, I believe that our religious voice must be strongest closest to home, manifest in how we daily live.  And, of course, our collective, interfaith efforts gather their strength from the work each of us does within our own particular communities.  The congregation I serve, Temple Emanuel of the Greater Washington area, has worked on greening its agenda for over 20 years.  We believe that local action by religious communities can have a national and international impact.  How have we implemented our agenda?  Let me mention some of the ways:

  • We installed solar panels on the roof for our eternal light, added wind power from a regional collective, made use of energy efficient zoning, lighting and office equipment and during a building phase, made use of passive solar throughout the building.
  • We planted sustainable gardens to meet our annual ritual needs, growing grapes, horseradish, and indoor olive and pomegranate trees.
  • We regularly schedule environmental Shabbats and other opportunities for learning with our state representative and national leaders.
  • We sell CPF bulbs and have information about climate change on our coffee tables.
  • We have become an EPA energy star community and one of the nation’s first “zero carbon footprint’ communities by supporting alternative energy investments.
  • Our webpage includes our Green Shalom action guide which is designed to educate and spur further community involvement and environmental action in our own homes and community.
  • Let us all work with people of every disciplines, be they diplomats, scientists, environmentalists, engineers, architects, writers, artist, poets and journalists to create programming that changes hearts and minds and helps to refocus us on sustainable living and a culture of meaning, not possessing.

           This community focus has borne fruit, with a good number of our young people choosing science, media, religion and public policy arenas that deal directly with environmental issues.  We in faith communities must train our future religious and lay leaders to see the close connection between caring for the Earth and our own spiritual traditions.

           People of faith around our world number in the billions. We are the largest constituency of any nation of our world.  The opportunity to be heard is greater than in previous decades, and we have a prophetic responsibility to seize it.   There is so much that each of us can and must do, within our own homes, congregations, and countries, and beyond, as we work together as a global family in common cause, to preserve and sanctity life.

         As Rabbi Tarphon of the second century reminds us: “It is not your duty to finish all the work, but neither are you are liberty to desist from it.”  May it be that years hence, our children and our children’s children will look back with appreciation to this moment when we heeded one of the great moral imperatives of our time.  May they know that we had the vision and the strength to fulfill our sacred obligation to preserve and protect the earth in all of its majesty, this garden with which we have been entrusted, for those who will follow.
 

Celebration of Mesillat Yesharim at Beth Zion-Beth Israel


John Oliver Mason

The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) celebrated the new edition of the classic Jewish text, Mesillat Yesharim, at a brunch and discussion held at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel.

Messillat Yesharim is a classic in Jewish Mussar (ethical) literature, written by the Kabbalist Moses Hayyim Luzzatto. It was translated into English by Doctor Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist movement in Judaism. The new edition has an introduction and commentary by Rabbi Ira Stone, of Beth Zion-Beth Israel.

More after the jump.

Rabbi Barry Schwartz, CEO of  JPS, welcomed everyone attending, and commended BZBI for providing the brunch, and he also thanked the Kehillah of center City for co-sponsoring the event. “It’s is truly an event,” he said, “that cuts across denominational lines, and it’s wonderful to see representatives from many different synagogues and different streams of Judaism this morning.”  Schwartz spoke of the life of Moses Hayyim Luzzatto, “A great Italian rabbi whose life straddles the transition from Medieval Judaism to Modernity.”

Schwartz also spoke of his research into the rabbis in Amsterdam in the 17th century for an upcoming book on that era, adding, “One of the things I’ve learned is that these individuals, these rabbis were very well-schooled and educated, and applied a rational approach to understanding Judaism and understanding text, in the spirit of Maimonides. At the same time, some of these same individuals had very strong, mystical and kabalistic leanings. We’re used to dividing people into categories, rationalists and mystics; but what we’ve discovered from (studying) this period is that one individual, the same individual, could hold all these views together in different parts of their lives.” Kaplan, said Schwartz, was not comfortable in researching Luzzatto, because Luzzatto was not a pure rationalist, but also a mystic.

The re-publication of Mesillat Yesharim, said Schwartz, was made possible by a donation from the family of Miles Lerman, who “became a study partner with Rabbi Stone, in the subject that this book covers which is Mussar, the ethical impulse if Judaism.”

Susan Stanek, Director of the Kehillah, said, “It’s amazing to see so many people from so many synagogues (represented), and how wonderful it is to see our community coming together to support Rabbi Stone, BZBI, and the Jewish Publication Society.”  

David Lerman, President of the Jewish Publication Society and son of Miles Lerman, told the audience, “I’m privileged to be a member of this congregation, and I’m especially privileged to have the opportunity to study with Rabbi Stone…

During the High Holy Days,” added Lerman, “Rabbi Stone told us in the congregation that one of his commitments this year was to multiply the opportunities for the members of the congregation to encounter text. For people who weren’t raised studying at yeshivot, who didn’t have as natural an opportunity to encounter text, approaching text seems a little intimidating, and text seems difficult to access.”

The purpose of JPS, said Lerman, is “to create opportunities for exploring Jews to have a chance to understand and explore our roots and our traditions, in ways that enrich and expand our contemporary lives.”

Professor Mel Scult, pre-eminent authority on the life of Mordecai Kaplan and co-editor of an anthology of Kaplan’s writings, Dynamic Judaism: The Essential writings of Mordecai Kaplan,  said of the Mesillat Yesharim, “(It) has been popular for a very long time, and was central to the Jewish community in the 18th and 19th centuries. What Mordecai Kaplan did was, he brought it into his own time. Every translation is really a commentary,  really an interpretation, and he brought it into the world of the 1930’s. What Rabbi Stone has done is he has reconstructed it for our own time.”

Scult described the book as “a how-to book on Jewish religiosity, spirituality, and ethics. All of us want to move from where we are to a higher level, and Luzzatto, Kaplan, and Rabbi Stone help us do that.”

Rabbi Stone thanked the JPS staff and everyone who participated.