‘God is to be found everywhere,’ says Temple’s Bilgray scholar

Rabbi Arthur Green
Rabbi Arthur Green

Rabbi Arthur Green has forged his own spiritual path for a half-century. A preeminent authority on neo-Hasidism, mysticism and Jewish spirituality, Green will be in residence at Temple Emanu-El from Feb. 7 to 9 as the distinguished scholar for its 2013 Arthur T. Bilgray lecture series.

Recognized as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, Green hasn’t been strictly associated with any one stream of Judaism. “Neo-Hasidism is about teachings and values that apply to a non-Hasidic life,” Green told the AJP. “God is to be found everywhere” is his credo.

Green will present “The Origins of Neo-Hasidism” on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation. At Temple Emanu-El’s Friday night services on Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m., the rabbi will discuss “Reclaiming the Mystical Tradition: Why and How.” On Saturday, Feb. 9, Green’s topic will be “Re-reading the Hasidic Masters: A Study of Sources” during Temple’s Rabbi’s Tish at noon.

The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber followed neo-Hasidism, which began around 100 years ago, says Green, adding that Rabbis Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Shlomo Carlebach would be considered the two major neo-Hasidics.

“Many American Jews are spiritual seekers, whether they know it or not, whether they belong to a synagogue or not,” says Green. “They’re looking for the meaning of life. That’s what I like to talk with people about. I very much believe in evolution, in what is our spiritual evolution.”

In his latest book, “Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition” (Yale University Press, 2010), Green articulates a religious vision that embraces evolution and human authorship of scripture.

Green’s forthcoming title, “Speaking Torah,” will be released in two volumes by Jewish Lights Publishing this fall. He is a prolific author whose previous books include “A Guide to the Zohar” (Stanford University Press, 2003), “Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology” (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2003) and “Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow” (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002).

Green has taken a circuitous route to his religious and philosophical core. “I was raised in a Jewish atheist home,” he says. “I discovered religion when I was sent to Hebrew school to present a Bar Mitzvah for my grandparents. I fell in love with it.”

As an undergraduate at Brandeis University during the ’60s, “neither secular nor Orthodox tradition would work for me,” says Green. He was ordained as a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1967, and received his Ph.D. from Brandeis in 1975. Green was president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where he served as dean and president from 1984 to 1993. He was director of the Center for Ethics and Justice in Public Life at Brandeis from 1996 to 1998. Green also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and is a professor emeritus at Brandeis.

In 2003, Green founded the Rabbinical School at the Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., where he is now the rector and a professor of philosophy and religion in its non-denominational rabbinical program.

“What I most like to do is teach rabbis,” says Green. “I don’t belong to any movement. I’m a none-of-the-above rabbi. I’m not Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist.”

For more information about Temple Emanu-El’s Bilgray Lecture Series, call 327-4501.