From the Publisher
"Offers specific, concrete ways to invite the spirit back into our work.... An exemplary blend of traditional religion and contemporary life."
—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul
“Will challenge not only Jews caught up in the hustle and the hassle, the distractions and desperations of the occupational world but everyone of whatever denomination concerned about making sense out of life and responding to the longings of the spirit within the soul.”
—Fr. Andrew M. Greeley, professor of Social Science, University of Chicago
“An eloquent voice, bearing an important and concrete message.... Engaging, easy to read and hard to put down—and it will make a difference and change people.”
—Jacob Neusner, Distinguished Research Professor of Religious Studies, University of South Florida
The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle - Sybil Kaplan
Where do you go when you've been a congregational rabbi for 27 years, written five best-selling books and are looking for something else? If you are Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, you found, direct and serve as rabbi for a new organization, Kol Echad: Making Judaism Matter, a trans-denominational, adult learning community in Atlanta.
This adult-education institute, located in an office complex, is "an amalgamation, like a kollel for non- Orthodox Jews," Rabbi Salkin said in a phone interview. He will be in Overland Park this weekend, serving as scholar in residence at The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah Nov. 16-18.
His organization is experimenting with different kinds of outreach, aiming to be “a liberal alternative to Chabad.” The programs seek to “teach Judaism in an intellectual, lively and playful way,” said the rabbi. For example, one of the courses is “What Madonna Doesn't Know About Kabbalah.”
Rabbi Salkin grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and is a 1981 graduate of the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. He is best known for his books on spirituality, all published by Jewish Lights Publishers. Among his works are: “Bar/Bat Mitzvah Memory Book: An Album for Treasuring the Spiritual Celebration;” “Being God's Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link Between Spirituality and Your Work;” “For Kids: Putting God on Your Guest List;” and “Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah.”
The latter work, first published in 1992, is one of the top-selling books on American Judaism today. Thus, it is no coincidence that his scholar-in-residency falls during Jewish Book Month, which began Nov. 4.
Rabbi Salkin's most recent book was undertaken as a prelude to Israel's 60th birthday celebration in May 2008. “A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters To Them” presents a multitude of Jewish voices, whose comments are categorized into five headings: identity and heritage, refuge, faith and covenant, tikkun olam and American historical perspective. Because there is no approved way of thinking about Israel, Rabbi Salkin said he looked for a multitude of mainstream opinions. Yet the variety of contributors is amazing — Lillian Hellman, Harpo Marx, Debbie Friedman, Albert Einstein, Solomon Schechter, Danny Maseng, Emma Lazarus, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and 105 more.
“I edited this book because I was profoundly aware of the emotional distancing taking place between American Jews and Israel,” Rabbi Salkin said. “The inconvenient truth is that Jews travel less, give less and care less (about Israel).”
Rabbi Salkin would like to see this book read by anyone who is curious about Israel, especially non- Jews, many of whom have a “blind spot” when it comes to Israel.
A recent study undertaken by Steven M. Cohen and Avi Kelman reported that less than 50 percent of the Jews surveyed believe if the state of Israel were destroyed it would be a profound loss for them. “I wanted to create a book so everyone would understand why (so many) Jews care about Israel.”
Rabbi Salkin says he would like to “hit control/alt/delete, reboot the Jewish spiritual computer, reformat the hard drive and reinspire American Jews.”
New Jersey Jewish News - Johanna Ginsberg
Since Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin wrote Putting God on the Guest List: How To Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah in 1980, doing mitzvot has become fashionable, while Israel, the topic of his latest book, has become decidedly "passe."
“Al Gore’s inconvenient truth is global warming. Our problem is a little bit of freezing. We are cooling off in terms of our relationship to Israel. It’s almost as if we have internalized the attitudes in the surrounding world, especially on college campuses,” said Salkin in a recent telephone interview from Boston.
His book, A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them, published by Jewish Lights in 2007, is a project he undertook as a corrective to that “cooling” trend, he said. “I edited Dream of Zion to strengthen the connection of American Jews to Israel and to give them role models for how to support Israel. There’s no orthodoxy in this book — no one approved method. There are right-wing Zionists and people critical of Israeli policy. But every person in the book wants Israel to be democratic, Jewish, and secure,” he said.
A Reform rabbi, Salkin acknowledged the trend is particularly acute among Reform Jews. “Reform Jews are statistically the least connected to Israel, they go to Israel the least, their children go to Israel the least, and they tend to be more critical of Israel,” he said.
If the connection is less visceral among this group, he also acknowledged that it is due to demographic trends, including the high numbers of non-Jews being brought into the denomination through intermarriage. “It does seem to be a smoking pistol,” he said. “It is fair to say that demographic trends in the Reform movement have put a strain upon our commitment to the larger Jewish community and people,” he said.
Salkin also pointed to the rise in “Jewish spirituality” as another culprit in the lessening of interest in Israel. “To the extent that Jewish spirituality has grown in the movement, there has been a concomitant shrinkage of Jewish peoplehood. Ethnic ties have grown strained. As we become more removed from the immigrant generation and more American, our commitment to the larger Jewish people is becoming strained.”
Salkin himself has written and edited books that focus on bringing spirituality into one’s life, including Being God’s Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link between Spirituality and Your Work.
Salkin is the founder, rabbi, and director of Kol Echad: Making Judaism Matter, a transdenominational kollel, or Jewish learning center, in Atlanta. Kol Echad was established in 2007. If this generation is less engaged with Israel, they are more focused on tzedaka.
“There’s a new hipness to altruism,” said Salkin. “I find many families increasingly interested in engaging in good works, and tzedaka. In some cases, they’re even becoming competitive with each other. The same effort that used to go into the celebration now goes into doing good works.”
And while he said he wishes the motivation were pure, he’ll take the deeds. “Even if people do good, ethical things for narcissistic reasons, they are still doing good things,” he said. He’s also thrilled that the impetus for the mitzvot often comes from the family itself, rather than as one more hoop for a young person to jump through before his or her big day.
So does Salkin think there’s still room for improvement? Yes. “I wish families were doing more things that are specifically Jewish,” he said. “Many people give to the disease of the week or to save the whales. We need to redress the imbalance between the universal and the particular. We need to remind ourselves that if we as Jews do not give to Jewish causes, who will?”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
According to Rabbi Salkin, the spiritual lives of many Jews are often divorced from their working lives. Salkin sets out to heal this split by using Torah and rabbinic literature to demonstrate that the integration of work and spirituality is central to the theological heritage of Judaism. The best moments of the book are found in Salkin's incisive indictments of the spiritually debilitating forces of workaholism, careerism and consumerism. In a final chapter, Salkin offers eight steps (e.g., daily prayer, making room for God as partner in success) toward restoring the balance between work and spirit in our lives. Although the book often has the hollow ring of some of M. Scott Peck's spiritual psychology, Salkin's work will challenge readers to reconsider their work as a way of being God's partner in the world. (Feb.)
One of the greatest difficulties religious people face is integrating their faith with their work. Taking his cue from biblical texts that portray God at the center of humankind's work, Rabbi Salkin offers gentle suggestions for incorporating religious life into the workaday world. In addition, Salkin criticizes the spiritually debilitating attitudes of the contemporary marketplace that elevate career and consumption over eternal values. Salkin argues that too often believers allow their identities to be defined by their jobs or careers. Instead, the rabbi argues, believers need to rediscover elements of the religious life like prayer and Sabbath worship that call them into a spiritually fulfilling partnership with God. A useful purchase for most libraries.
This engaging meditation on the spirituality of work is grounded in Judaism but is relevant well beyond the boundaries of that tradition. Rabbi Salkin attends especially to concepts of imitating God and becoming God's partners. To imitate God is to be "one", to practice an integrity that unites spheres (family, religion, work) into which our lives have been broken. Salkin illustrates his meditation with stories, both ancient and contemporary; in the words of one Hasidic tale, we "pray" while we "oil the wheels." The second concept emphasizes the requirement to maintain the world, "tikkun olam", and locates the spirituality of work in the construction of meaning from brokenness. "This powerful God that "we" need," Salkin writes, "needs "us"." This is an important corrective to the increasingly common invocation of an ill-defined "work ethic" that most often justifies consumerism and the dehumanization of work. Salkin suggests ways to reclaim the humanity of our work and, in the process, transform the world into a place where God's presence can dwell.