Feeling Alienated From Joy


Robbie Gringras is not the first person to feel a mix of joy, inspiration, 
comfort, awkwardness, pain and isolation during a joy-filled Shabbat
service (“Shabbat Service Here Highlights Israel-Diaspora Gap,” Opinion, May 10).

What we do with our mixed emotions and with our joy, pain and
alienation is often a topic in Rabbi David Ingber’s sermons at Romemu,
where I am a congregant. Rabbi Ingber frequently dares us in his sermons and
stories to live more honestly in our vulnerability. So I suggest bringing
more vulnerability to this discussion about the diaspora-Israel connection.

I can understand why someone from Israel, where realpolitik is so necessary,
would feel pain upon encountering an ecstatic and contemplative community
like Romemu. I am the child of a Holocaust survivor and Palmach-nik, as well
as of a parent who had polio. Some of my earliest encounters with Jewish
Renewal’s ecstatic practices left me feeling unsafe, alienated and enraged. 
I have learned, with the help of the chasidic masters so often quoted at
Romemu and by other Renewal teachers, that joy can be a painful challenge and that one’s pain can be a dangerous comfort (and, God forbid, a weapon). Robbie Gringras felt pain at a spirited Romemu service — a pain that I and
others could relate to. If he returns, I hope he might talk more about his
pain, rather than lashing out at a warm and compassionate community.

Many Israelis have gone to India and Tibet to find contemplative and ecstatic
spirituality. Romemu offers a contemplative and ecstatic path within
Judaism. I think many Israelis might actually find that to be a good thing.