Spirituality, charisma and gender in a Jewish spiritual renewal community in Israel
Rachel Werczberger (University of Pennsylvania )
On May 2006, Rabbi David V., the leader of Ruch-Halev community - a Jewish Spiritual Renewal community based in Israel, was accused of abusing several of the community's female workers and students. Consequently, Rabbi David was fired from his position as leader and teacher of the community. Prior to the scandal, Rabbi David was also known among the Jewish Renewal circles for his engagement with issues of Eros and sexuality. Using pervasive Kabbalistic imagery of feminine spirituality (the Shechinah), Rabbi David emphasized the importance of physical and sensual pleasure coupled with spiritual development for a Jewish renewal. Using my ethnography on Ruch-Halev, my lecture will discuss the inherent contradictions between contemporary spirituality's discourse on gender equality and feminine spirituality and the actual dynamics of charismatic leadership and male dominance, in a community which attempted to integrate between NA spirituality and Jewish religious traditions.
Spirituality against religion: the role of gender and power