Recorded by JHSWM boardmember Michael Hoberman, these interviews chronicle the stories of Jewish people in Western Massachusetts and beyond.
Additional thoughts by the interviewee, David Arfa:
Thank you for the invite for talking together. It's not often undivided attention comes to hear the indepth version of my Jewish story.
Of course, afterwards a few more thoughts crossed my neural paths...
I realized I took your question about who my Rabbi/s were very literally. Meaning, who am I actively in conversation with. I shared Rabbi Katy Allen, a Chaplain/Rabbi environmental educator and outdoor service leader in the Boston area. I also mentioned several books. When I step back more generally, I have a bunch of Rabbis who have influenced me. Here's that list in chronological order:
- From my years in Philly in the early 90's: Reb Zalman, Rabbi Marcia Prager, Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Everett Gendler;
- Rabbi Sheila Weinberg and Rabbi Louis Reiser from my early years here and my studies at Hebrew College including Rabbi Arthur Green, Rabbi Nehemiah Polen and my teacher of Jewish Mysticism from out here, Larry Fine (I'm not sure if he is a Rabbi).
The first Rabbis showed me that Judaism can be contemporary (coming from traditional Yeshiva experience, this was pretty revolutionary). The later Rabbis showed me the depth of tradition-focusing on Kabbalah and Hasidism. In addition, my dead teachers (but still so alive!) include Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber, Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, The Sfat Emet, and the early generation of creative Hasidic Rebbes. Howard Schwartz's story work has also been a huge influence. I'll leave off here and not go into the wheres and whys of each.
The other question that took a turn was the last one. I wanted to say more about the confluence of Jewish environmental educators in our area. Rabbi David Seidenberg's Kabbalah and Ecology is a paradigm shifting book. It's his graduate thesis written up, chronicling the abundance of texts from not only Midrash, Kabbalah, Hasidism but Maimonides the presumed rationalist, too! Also, Nili Simhai lives in our area. She ran the Teva Seminar for 18 years or so, bringing JEwish environmental education to elementary and middleschoolers. Several of her teachers have also moved to the area, including Cara Silverberg, Daniel Kaivel and Sonja- all bringing great Jewish environmental education with them. In addition, thanks to Rabbi Everett Gendlers Grapevine grants, amazing outdoor spaces have been created in Northampton, Amherst and Brattleboro too...all to varying degrees. Who knows how it will all grow.
For a rural area, our Jewish life contains a lot of green and is growing!
OK-I think that's it. Thanks again for including me in your project.
All the best,
David Arfa, Maggid (Mah-geed; Storyteller)/ Environmental Educator