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Evolve Article Index

Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations offers conversation-sparking essays from thought-leading rabbis, lay leaders and creators. Explore the best thinking on pressing, contemporary questions.

This page contains a categorized index of essays that can be found on the Evolve site.

“Renouncing Racism” Resources

Essays, sermons and study guides from the RRA around racial justice.

Thoughts on Racism and Antisemitism
(Mordechai Liebling)

A look at some of the causes of tension and misunderstanding between Jews and Blacks in the United States.

Slavery and Its Atonement
(Toba Spitzer)

On the impact of slavery and the white Jewish obligations to respond.

Reeling from my journey into America’s ugly past
(James Greene)

Reflections on a visit to the National Memorial of Peace and Justice and to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala.

Racism in the Jewish Community
(Sandra Lawson and Donna Cephas)

Co-written by Rabbi Sandra Lawson and Donna Cephas, this essay examines the assumption that all Jews are white, while touching on a myriad of interrelated issues: conversion, interracial families, adoption, Ashkenazi privilege and political correctness.

Race Must Be Addressed Systemically: A Study Guide
(Bob Gluck)

In this study guide, Rabbi Bob Gluck outlines the book Racing to Justice by John A. Powell, including major themes, notable quotes and topics for discussion.

‘Why Were You Not Zusia?’
(Mordecai M. Kaplan)

From the diaries of Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, a reflection on the beauty of stepping outside proscribed lines and being fully oneself.

Transgender Rights
(Steve Weinberg)

A synagogue president writes to his community, asking for their support of his transgender family ahead of Election Day.

The Reconstructionist Experience of LGBTQ Inclusion and the Ordination Struggle Among Progressive Orthodox Jews
(Bob Gluck)

Might the knowledge gained within Reconstructionist communities and our experience of values-based decision-making prove useful to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah? I believe that it can.

Supporting Integrity: Pastoral Care for Conversion and Transition
(Jane Litman)

Our responsibility is to assert as legitimate the religious identity of those converting to Judaism and those who transition to a different gender identity. We can learn from our support of each of these groups about how to support the other.

Scenes from the Q of LGBTQ+
(John Backman)

What is it like to live every day outside the confines of “he” and “she”? Difficult, intimidating, powerful—and occasionally, funny.

‘We Are So Beautiful’: A Jewish Response to White Supremacism
(Josh Weisman)

Living a Jewish life is rich, meaningful and joyful. It is a wonderful way to respond to the violence and lies of antisemitism. And it is healing.

Thoughts on Racism and Antisemitism
(Mordechai Liebling)

A look at some of the causes of tension and misunderstanding between Jews and Blacks in the United States.

This Year I Skipped Purim
(Amy Eilberg)

How do we balance raucous joy with global suffering? Is it sometimes impossible to celebrate, even when the Jewish calendar calls for it? Rabbi Amy Eilberg shares about her skipping Purim in 2019 in response to attacks in Pittsburgh and Christchurch.

The Danger of Antisemitism in America
(David A. Teutsch)

White supremacists are the greatest danger to the safety of Jews in the United States. The emphasis on antisemitic tropes among progressives is misplaced.

Review essay of Deborah E. Lipstadt, Antisemitism: Here and Now, Schocken Books, 2019
(Reena Freedman)

In her new book, Lipstadt details antisemitism on the right and the left. She urges Jews to balance the oy of being Jewish with the joy of being Jewish.

Witnessing Suffering
(Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

A new interpretation of the story of Lot’s wife: that bearing witness provokes her transformation into the pillar of salt. The question remains: How can we act with compassion and bear witness without becoming paralyzed or fixed?

Why We Do What We Do
(Amy Small)

Drawing from teachings in the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi David Teutsch teaches that “silence is consent.” For American Jewish communities, keeping silent about injustice emerging in Israel makes Jews complicit in those acts of injustice.

We Were Once Slaves
(Michael Zimmerman)

Because we were once slaves, Michael Zimmerman explains, we can feel the suffering of other oppressed groups without having experienced it directly. Seeking justice does not need to be rewarded, as it is a privilege and a right to campaign on behalf of other marginalized communities.

Towards Wholeness
(Deborah Waxman with Alex Weissman)

A text sheet and study guide created by Rabbi Deborah Waxman on Rabbi Alex Weissman’s piece, “Halleluyah.”

Tikkun Olam Is an Authentic Jewish Value
(Maurice Harris)

Maurice Harris argues that liberal Jewish communities have the full right to use tikkun olam as an umbrella term, despite opposition voiced by conservative critics. The spiritual significance of the term is not undervalued, he writes, by the use of it.

The Jewish Basis for Environmentalism
(Fred Scherlinder Dobb)

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb outlines the five pillars that serve as a base for the Jewish environmental movement: sufficiency (dayenu), resilience (kehillah), responsibility (akhrayut), justice (tzedek) and hope (tikvah).

The Covenant of Salt
(Rena Blumenthal)

The “covenant of salt,” Rena Blumenthal writes, is the agreement that Jews will not only bear witness to suffering and destruction, but preserve memories of pain to teach to future generations.

Staying Sane in a World Gone Mad
(Sid Schwarz)

How do we keep going when the world is full of terror and suffering? A Kol Nidrei sermon exploring some possibilities.

Spiritual Activism: Tikkun HaNefesh v’Olam in Our Time
(Shawn Zevit)

This PowerPoint presentation created by Rabbi Shawn Zevit for his Spirituality and Activism Reconstructionist Learning Network covers everything from “finding a spiritual home” to understanding the deeper roots of tikkun olam, as well as the intersection between prayer and social justice.

Why I Include Bilhah and Zilpah in the Imahot
(David Mosenkis)

Why include all six matriarchs in the Amidah? Why include the matriarchs at all? David Mosenkis looks at the way narratives dominated by a ruling group overpower the essential contributions to Jewish lineage and civilization by non-dominant populations.

Who is a Jew?
(Mordecai M. Kaplan)

From the diaries of Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, a reflection on how to define the term “Jew.”

Rituals of Return and Re-Affirmation
(Jacob Staub)

Exploration of the halachah (Jewish law), contemporary environment and theological implications around rituals of affirmation of Jewish identity.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Statement on Ishut

How is Jewish status conferred? In this 2013 document from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the tension between biology and identity is most prominent.

Reconstructionist Chutzpah: A Spirit of Provocation
(Joshua Bolton)

There is special chutzpah in the heart of a Reconstructionist, in relationship to Torah, communal life and the world.

Why Bother With Judaism?
(Michael Strassfeld)

In this speech from the 2017 RRA convention, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld reflects on redemption, responsibility and embodying Torah as Jewish leaders and community members.

Why Be Jewish?
(Nick Renner)

Rabbi Nick Renner uses unique examples from his rabbinic career to explore the blessings offered by being Jewish and taking part in Jewish communal life. From weekly rituals to forging community connections, reaching spiritual fulfillment to uncovering de

We Value the Questions
(Sarah Newmark)

Why becoming Jewish is attractive.

The Blessing of Being Jewish
(David Ebenbach)

Why should we thank God for having made us Jewish each day during the morning blessings? Professor David Ebenbach divines possible answers to this question: receiving mitzvot, Jewish community, spirituality or having to wrestle with the challenges brought to us by prayer.

Seven Essential Jewish Practices
(Elliott Tepperman)

Seven essential Jewish practices that are the most valuable for living a life of connected purpose with a full awareness of its many blessings.

Voice, Water, Place: New/Old Ways of Understanding God
(Toba Spitzer)

We are heir to a rich assortment of metaphors for God that may resonate more powerfully than the High Holy Day images of king and judge.

Tikkun Middot, Integrating Mindfulness and Ethical/Spiritual Traits
(Marc J. Margolius)

Rabbi Marc Margolius affirms three core teachings in the Torah: that each human being is created in the image of the Divine, that human beings must “serve and guard” the earth and that together, we must pursue justice and peace.

Talmud Torah as Spiritual Practice
(Vivie Mayer)

The enterprise of Talmud Torah tunes our ear to listen for the Divine voice. It is a lifelong project that connects us to the shared consciousness of the Jewish people as we/they have sought God throughout time.

Revelation Can Be Terrifying
(Benjamin Wiener)

The Bible’s description of the shuddering of the people at Mount Sinai reflects a deep truth about how moments of revelatory insight can be frightening.

Values Based Decision Making
(David A. Teutsch)

Principles, concepts and methods behind values-based decision-making.

Thriving Where We Are
(Alissa Wise)

Why must “diaspora” be a term rooted in pain? Rabbi Alissa Wise argues for a redefining of diaspora, in which one’s spiritual and physical home can remain undivided by the fragmented politics and policies of Israel.

The Torah Process: How Jews Make Decisions
(Jeremy Schwartz)

Values-based decision-making is a process deeply grounded in Torah and Jewish modalities of conversation and choices.

The Torah of Inclusion
(Brian Feld)

Rabbi Brian Field depicts the work of Judaism Your Way: bridging gaps, reducing gatekeeping in the Jewish community, and offering inclusive services and experiences for all interested in Jewish involvement.

Reimagining Jewish Community Sermon Sparks

Download these text studies inspired by the essays in Reimagining Jewish Community, by Rabbi Rachel Weiss, Rabbi Brian Field, and Rabbi Ariana Katz.

Re-imagining Synagogues and Communities
(Rachel Weiss)

Rabbi Rachel Weiss challenges the assumptions of how a synagogue should operate by highlighting multi-generational programming and interfaith activism at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston, Ill.

Radical Inclusion
(Aurora Levins Morales)

Declarations that everyone is welcome in a community are insufficient for Jews who do not identify as white. Jewishness is not the sole or primary identity for those who are oppressed and endangered because of the color of their skin.

Transcending ‘Digital Resources,’ Embracing Digital Judaism
(Lex Rofeberg)

Digital Judaism is fundamental to the Jewish future and not merely an add-on to enhance in-person interaction.

The Help We Need Right Now
(Donna Kirshbaum)

Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum responds to Toba Spitzer’s essay “Israel and Us” by asking, rather than focusing on disparate narratives: Are American Jews instead willing to value pragmatism over “ideological purity” when it comes to finding peace in Israel and Palestine?

Seeing Israel and Palestine With New Eyes
(Barbara Penzner)

One rabbi’s trip to Israel/Palestine in 2018 challenges her ideas about Israel, and offers new insight into the experiences of Israelis and Palestinians.

Reply to Brant Rosen
(Toba Spitzer)

Adding onto Rabbi Brant Rosen’s response essay, Rabbi Toba Spitzer further defines her use of “narrative” in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the struggle for liberation from trauma and oppression.