Seventy Five of Reb Zalman’s Contributions to Jewish Life

In 2000, a group of students and friends* put together a list of 75 contributions Reb Zalman has made to Jewish life (in honor of his 75th birthday):

I. Starting Out

  1. Serving as religious environmentalist at Camp Ramah, inspiring a generation of Ramah campers to sew their own multi-colored Tallitot, and encouraging women to put on Tallit and Tefillin in the sixties.
  2. Envisioning the P’nai Or Rainbow Tallit.
  3. Being a Congregational rabbi in New Bedford, MA at once too innovative and too traditional.
  4. Teaching and inspiring at Hillel Summer Institutes.
  5. Being a Hillel Director unlike any other and leading Shabbatonim at more Hillels all across North America than any other Hillel Director

II. Making our Tradition Accessible

  1. Being a living link to pre-war Europe.
  2. Doing shlichoot work, being a spiritual emissary, at Brandeis Hillel with Reb Shlomo in the late 50’s.
  3. Teaching us to davven in English.
  4. Translating Hebrew liturgy into singable English.
  5. Singing an alternative Birkat Ha-Mazon / Grace After Meals melody and translating Birkat Ha-Mazon into singable English in the early sixties.
  6. Opening our hearts through your melodious song and chant.
  7. Bequeathing to us your chant of Ana B’Cho’ach (a prayer used for healing and opening).
  8. Translating Y’did Nefesh (a love poem to God) into an English that can be sung.
  9. Bringing familiar secular tunes into sacred contexts, like Psalm 109 to Michael Row the Boat Ashore and El Adon to Donna Donna.
  10. Giving us Ha-Shir v-Ha-Shevach and a legacy of new Shabbat melodies.
  11. Inspiring us through the magic of your story telling.
  12. Recording English-Hebrew davvenen in stereo.
  13. Gifting us with the legacy of hundreds of hours of taped classes and workshops.
  14. Rewriting traditional Hebrew prayers.

III. Opening Judaism

  1. Attending classes given by others without taking over.
  2. Creating new homes for the Jewishly homeless by welcoming people into Judaism by inviting without insisting.
  3. Welcoming women into equal partnership in Jewish spiritual life.
  4. Welcoming Gays and Lesbians into equal partnership in Jewish community life.

IV. Interfaith and Universalism

  1. Teaching at the Abode of the Message, ashrams, and dharma centers.
  2. Dancing with Sheikh Muzaffir, chanting with Swami Satchitananda, and doing Zikr with Pir Valayat Khan.
  3. Studying Psychology of Religion with Howard Thurman.
  4. Being one of our ambassadors to the Dalai Lama.
  5. Spawning extensive dialogue and sharing between Jews and Buddhists and showing new ways for inter-faith conversations.

V. Transcending the Boundaries of Jewish Life

  1. Bringing Hassidut to Hebrew Union College and teaching davvenology at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
  2. Chairing the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
  3. Being a Professor of Jewish Mysticism and Psychology of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia.

32. Zayde / Grandfather and midwife of the Havurah movement and being at the inception of Havurat Shalom in Boston in 1968.

  1. Envisioning and creating B’nai Or, P’nai Or, and ALEPH.
  2. Bringing CLAL, Yesod and ALEPH into partnership.
  3. Inspiring the Jewish Catalog.
  4. Contributing to making Mount Airy one of the more dynamic Jewish communities in America.
  5. Seeding the creation of the Aquarian Minyan, Philadelphia P’nai Or, B’nai Horin and Makom Or Shalom in Los Angeles, B’nai Or in Boston, and many other new communities.
  6. Cross pollinating among the movements within Judaism.

VI. Manifestor of Chesed, Expansive Love

  1. Loving and supporting innumerable individuals by being available for phone calls, faxes, e-mails, andthe famous Reb Zalman meetings on the run.
  2. Opening your homes in Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Jerusalem, and now Boulder to spiritual seekers.
  3. Cooking meals for people as an act of avodat ha-Shem (Divine Service).
  4. Teaching about intimacy as part of living a Jewish life and modeling a Torah teaching partnership with Eve.
  5. Pioneering the concept of Spiritual Eldering.

VII. Connecting us to Jewish Spirituality

  1. Inspiring the rediscovery of meditation in Jewish practice.
  2. Teaching us to see a paradigm shift happening in Judaism in our time.
  3. Elevating awareness of Sh’chinnah (the Divine feminine, the indwelling presence).
  4. Elevating awareness of Gaia as a living entity and helping to create a new cosmology.
  5. Being willing to talk about God after the holocaust.
  6. Initiating conversations about the root metaphors of God language.
  7. Introducing us to other God names besides Adonai.
  8. Teaching us to see Jewish education as educating the spirit.
  9. Teaching us about angels in Judaism.
  10. Articulating a Judaism which is magnetic and global in scope.
  11. Inspiring us to create new Jewish prayers, songs, and chants and to write many new siddurim /prayer books (see the ReSources catalog).
  12. Teaching us to dance our Judaism.
  13. Helping articulate our Jewish agenda for the 21st century.
  14. Learning to use a Shiviti as a focus in davvenen / prayer.
  15. Modeling for us how to stand under our tallitot / prayer shawls in deep prayer.
  16. Teaching us to do the morning blessings with movement.
  17. Motivating us to think about eco-kashrut.
  18. Helping us to understand the psycho-halachic applications of Jewish tradition.

VIII. Deepening our Jewish Practice

  1. Teaching us to experience Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in retreat settings and to do vigils on the seventh day of Pesach.
  2. Teaching us to dance the hakafot as expressions of the s’firot (the emanations of Divine energy whose dynamic interactions are our universe).
  3. Introducing us to the kabbalistic tree of life, the s’firot and giving us the four worlds as a model for understanding so much of our Jewish experience and life itself.
  4. Sharing with us your love of technology and thinking about G!d and reality in computer metaphors.

IX. Connecting us to Eastern European Hassidism

  1. Making HaBaD teachings and practices accessible and translating texts of little known Hassidic rebbes such as the Dinover and Arele Roth.
  2. Transmitting unrecorded Hassidic niggunim.
  3. Translating Reb Nachman’s torahs and his story of the Seven Beggars and recording it on a vinyl LP.
  4. Teaching a whole generation to reclaim the legacy of eastern European Hassidism.

X. Nurturing Leaders

70. Offering a return to s’michah through rabbinic apprenticeship and ordaining a new generation of musmachim / musmachot.

  1. Mentoring and inspiring a generation of students and rabbis.
  2. Inspiring the creation of Jewish retreat centers.
  3. Supporting Elat Chayyim through your teaching.
  4. Envisioning a Jewish renewal gathering that we call the Kallah and supporting the Kallah through your teaching.
  5. Supporting the Kallah in particular and Jewish renewal in general by making room for the next generation of rebbes to blossom.


* Daniel Siegel and Simcha Raphael with help from Mitch Cheifitz, Leonard Gordon, Marga Hirsch, Sherry Israel, Anne Mintz, Geela Rayzel Raphael, Moshe Waldoks, Rivkah Walton and others.