‘Shapers of Liberal Judaism’

Under the spell of  ‘Star Wars mania’ with the latest franchise installment hitting the big screen, Rabbi Lisa Edwards from Los Angeles’ LGBT congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim explains why Rabbis Arthur Waskow and Phyllis O. Berman are “the Han Solo and Princess Leia of Judaism.”


It’s hard to say who’s most excited about the new “Star Wars” movie, the millennials and youngsters taking it in for the first time, or those of us who saw the very first “Star Wars” in 1977. I’ve not yet seen the new one, but I’ve read there is something for everyone, including roles for the original Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).

I confess that while I liked “Star Wars” a lot in 1977, I’ve not watched it again and again, nor have I seen any of its sequels. But I do hold a place in my heart for Han and Leia, great characters then and, apparently, still today. And I especially appreciate that whole new generations will get a glimpse of them, and perhaps also become fans.

At BCC on Friday night, February 19 we’ll have a chance to re-engage with two people who might affectionately be called the Han Solo and Princess Leia of Judaism. Husband and wife Rabbis Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, among the esteemed teachers who helped shape contemporary liberal Judaism, will be our special guests, thanks to an invitation from BCC member Rabbi Jonathan Klein and the generosity of The Rev. John C. Forney and the Agenda For a Prophetic Faith Chair, Progressive Christians Uniting – an organization bringing Rabbi Waskow to the area to teach that weekend.

In the mid 1980s, just a few years after “Star Wars” came out, and a few years before I went to rabbinical school (or was even thinking about it), someone gave me a copy of a book entitled Seasons of Our Joy: A Handbook of Jewish Festivals by Arthur Waskow. That book changed my Jewish life. Its explanations of the Jewish holy days and festivals helped me understand where they came from, what they mean, and how to celebrate them now. I read it in both ways that Waskow suggested: “as a kind of biography of the Jewish year,” as well as, just before each holiday, the chapter that helped me get ready for it.

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