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Panim Hadashot-The Heart of Shabbat 2015 Update

Dear Friends of Panim Hadashot-The Heart of Shabbat

We wish you a Happy Hanukah filled with light.   We wanted to update you about Panim Hadashot-The Heart of Shabbat.

Our focus in this early stage is to create powerful Shabbat experiences by reconsidering the way we pray and the way we are shaped by Shabbat. We have worked to create musical services and gatherings that have contemplative, joyful, and participatory elements and that preserve a loving connection to the traditional Hebrew prayer and song traditions. Everything we do seeks to inspire our participants and build community. At this stage, we are gathering in smaller venues to refine our approach to services and to create the conditions for connecting people in a joyful and welcoming Shabbat setting. In a sense, we are a Shabbat laboratory, experimenting with ways to reinvigorate an ancient but timeless spiritual treasure of Judaism.

In late summer 2015, Panim Hadashot introduced a series of select Shabbat and High Holiday activities.  In October and November, we experimented with two Shabbatons in Ballard called Urban Shabbat Retreats.   Going forward, we will focus on two dimensions of the Shabbat experience which have had the most impact so far and will meet in various locations around Seattle.

First, we are working on a Kabbalat Shabbat musical service (with instrumentation) which taps into both Western and Eastern Jewish musical traditions along with a spirited Shabbat dinner experience.

Second, we aim to integrate two Hasidic traditions into one beautiful end-of-Shabbat experience.  These are the Tisch – a late Shabbat afternoon table accompanied with teaching, storytelling, and song – and the Melaveh Malkah – an extension of Shabbat that is filled with joyful song and which culminates in the beautiful ending ritual of Havdallah.  We have given this event the moniker, Hootenanny and Havdallah.

We have intended all along to fully integrate Tikkun Olam activity into our vision and programming.  Joanne and I have a personal commitment to mental health advocacy and support.  Mental illness can be one of the most devastating forms of illness, severely impacting many individuals and families.  As you can see on our website, we are working with the Jewish Family Service and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Washington and Greater Seattle to promote courses in the Jewish community for families affected by mental illness.  I am a trained NAMI peer educator who will anchor the award-winning Family-to-Family class that will be starting in March 2016.

As our community develops, we hope to add other Tikkun Olam activities and foci. We believe strongly that Shabbat is a time to cultivate and renew our engagement in the world.  Shabbat is not an escape from the world, but rather a spiritual regrouping, a time for reflection and the regeneration of a permanent commitment to Tikkun Olam.  We welcome people’s thoughts and wishes concerning how to shape a Shabbat experience that helps us renew and maintain our efforts of Tikkun Olam in the world, especially in these challenging times.

Panim Hadashot-The Heart of Shabbat is a work in progress – a fact we recognize and embrace. We hope you will help us shape and nourish our vision by connecting with us.  Please feel free to contact me with your questions and thoughts.  We are also grateful for your financial support, which is always easy to give through this link.

We hope to see you at a Panim Hadashot Shabbat program in the near future.

Hag Hanukah Same’ah,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

 

What is Panim Hadashot-The Heart of Shabbat?

פנים חדשות-Panim Hadashot
The Heart of Shabbat

Updated Vision Statement 9/9/15

The mission of Panim Hadashot* is to create a Sabbath-centered community, involving meaningful practices that transform the Sabbath into a joyful spiritual and ethical practice in our lives.

We believe that a rich Shabbat practice is a path toward opening the heart, connecting us to others, fostering compassion and building personal resilience. Arthur Green, one of the leading figures of modern Jewish thought, has observed that the Jewish Sabbath “is the best gift Judaism has to offer the world.” The rest, revival, and renewal of the Sabbath can help us to reduce our anxiety, overcome our sorrows, and mend our broken hearts.  Shabbat allows us to build the spiritual strength that enables us to contribute toward repair (tikun) of the brokenness of the human condition that we encounter.

Panim Hadashot, meaning “new face” in Hebrew, is a Talmudic term that connotes joyful hospitality.  In later Jewish literature Panim Hadashot emerges as a name for the Sabbath itself.   These texts embody the Sabbath as a beautiful new face welcomed with love each Friday evening.  The Jewish people and the Sabbath are imagined as two lovers meeting again after a prolonged absence.

We seek to instill this love of the Sabbath by offering a full Shabbaton over one Shabbat each month, which will feature both new and old Shabbat practices, including:

  • Musical services that invite participation, featuring new and old melodies
  • Sabbath feasts combining great food, experience and explanation of table rituals, and enlivening table talk that will move us into a more communal experience
  • Shabbat Torah study, which engages the curious mind and provides insight into issues that touch our lives.
  • Mindfulness meditation teachings and practices incorporated into the experience of Shabbat prayer and Shabbat rest

This non-residential retreat begins Friday evening and runs through the end of Shabbat. People can join us for as many activities as they would like. We believe that this “wall to wall” Shabbat experience will enhance participants’ observance of the Sabbath and be a unique contribution to Jewish life in Seattle.

We invite you to experience Shabbat through Panim Hadashot and to join us in shaping and implementing our vision. For more information, visit our website panimhadashot.org or contact us at 907 314-0810 or panimhadashot@gmail.com.

* Pronounced Paa-neem Chod-ah-shot.panim_01-04

An Elul Letter from Rabbi Dov Gartenberg on Mental Illness and the Seattle Jewish Community

Monday, August 24, 2015/ 9 Elul, 5775

Dear friends,

During the upcoming Days of Awe we will chant the haunting prayer, Unetaneh Tokef. The famous dyads of this prayer reveal the existential anxieties of our ancestors. I am writing to you about three of the dyads which have absorbed my attention during my adult life.

Who will be at peace and who will be troubled? מי ינוח ומי ינוע

Who will be serene and who will be disturbed? מי ישקיט ומי יטרף

Who will be tranquil and who will be tormented? ומי ישלו ומי יתיסר

These dyads focus on an ancient fear- the fear of what we today call mental illness. There was no word for mental illness in antiquity. Like the fear of death, the fear of falling sick to mental anguish and suffering was part of their reality, and continues to be part of ours. While we know much more about mental illness than our ancestors, we have, like them, found no cures for the myriad ways it manifests in ourselves or in the people we love.

Before I moved back to Seattle in April 2015, I served as the Executive Director of an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Juneau, Alaska. During my time there I learned and taught NAMI’s signature peer education courses for family members who are caring for a loved one with mental illness. I also brought to the community NAMI’s peer support and education courses for persons living with mental illness. Most important, I was able to mine my personal experience as a parent of a child with mental illness to become an advocate for people and family enduring the great challenges of living with it.

In moving back to Seattle I want to continue to advocate, support and educate persons and families living with mental illness as a rabbi in the Jewish community. Under the rubric of Panim Hadashot, the Jewish organization I have reestablished, I am working to bring NAMI’s outstanding peer support and education programs to the attention of the Seattle Jewish community. I am meeting with the leadership of Jewish Family Service and NAMI to foster greater collaboration in bringing forward the peer-led programs that NAMI offers.

One of NAMI’s signature programs is Family to Family, a course designed for family members who care for a loved one living with a mental illness such as depression, Bipolar Disorder, anxiety disorders, and Schizophrenia to organize and teach a NAMI. I am working with the Seattle affiliate of NAMI to modify and teach this course to include unique Jewish cultural issues that can arise with Jewish families dealing with mental illness. I will be teaching this course not as a rabbi, but as a peer. A peer in this case is a person who has life experience caring for a family member.

The Family to Family Course has been scheduled to run on Mondays and Wednesday evenings from November 9 to December 16, 2015. It is for any family members or caregivers caring for a loved one living with mental illness. The course is currently offered under the rubric of NAMI of Greater Seattle and Panim Hadashot, my recently reestablished Jewish organization. The course will meet in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle. The course is free, but registration will be limited to twenty persons. You will be able to find information on the course by September 1st at www.nami-greaterseattle.org or at www.panimhadashot.org.

I am also working to hold in Seattle a gathering focused on Judaism and Mental Illness. The gathering would be modeled on a conference that took place in New York City in 2014 organized by the Jewish institute of Drisha.

I wanted to make you aware of these efforts and invite you to join me either as a participant or as a collaborator. I also hope that over time we will be able to train a cadre of persons in the Jewish community who can help others on this journey by becoming NAMI trained peer teachers or support group facilitators. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested at panimhadashot@gmail.com.

I remember many years ago when my son was hospitalized in one of the more severe depressive episodes. He was so sick and in such pain that I hardly recognized him. As I fell to the depths of despair, one of the aides saw the distress on my face and took me aside. He told me, “It will not always be like this. He will find a way out of this.” I will always remember those words of hope and solace. Over time they were prophetic.

I am calling on inspired persons in our community to provide hope, support, and encouragement for those we know who face this enormous challenge. As it says at the end of ‘Unetaneh Tokef’, “Teshuvah, tefilah, and tzedaka maavirin et roa hagezera”. I translate this beloved prayer to mean “by turning toward, by advocating, and by generous righteous and caring acts we diminish the severity of the decree.” We have the power to make a difference and bring hope to those who live with mental illness.

Shanah Tovah v’tikateivu,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Panim Hadashot

The Inspiration of a New Face

In 2004 I established a new Jewish non-profit in Seattle called Panim Hadashot. In Hebrew, Panim Hadashot, means either ‘new face’ or ‘new faces’. The expression is associated with an ancient Jewish wedding practice that is still preserved to this day in some communities. The Jewish wedding ceremony culminates in the Seven Blessings (Sheva Berachot) a medley of blessings rich with past and future meaning. It is sung to the couple under the wedding canopy (Huppah) by the officiant or family members. In ancient times, it was an ideal to repeat the Sheva Berachot during the week following the wedding at a daily festive meal in honor newly married couple (honeymoons didn’t come until later). The name for these celebrations became “Sheva Berachot”.

However, a Sheva Berachot celebration could only take place if there was at least one new face present who was not a guest at the original ceremony. These new guests are called Panim Hadashot. The intention of this practice seems to be the intentional spreading of joyfulness and celebration beyond the original circle of family and friends to others in the community.

The idea behind the creation of Panim Hadashot was to apply the spirit of hospitality and inclusiveness embedded in this beautiful practice to the new realities modern Jewish life. Panim Hadashot was established as a Jewish outreach and educational organization which focused on sharing the Jewish Sabbath and Festival home hospitality traditions. Panim Hadashot also offered Torah study that was inclusive, rich in content, and spiritually relevant to people’s lives. I was in a sense a Sabbath coach, helping people to develop an enriching and inclusive Sabbath home hospitality practice.

Since leaving Seattle in 2007, Panim Hadashot continued to function in different formats. In Southern California I applied the approach of Panim Hadashot to develop a program promoting the development of a Shabbat table culture in a congregation that had little Shabbat celebration or hospitality beyond the synagogue walls. We trained leading synagogue householders to build up their Shabbat home practices and to share their tables regularly with other congregants and guests. In 2011, Joanne and I brought Panim Hadashot to Juneau, Alaska where our home became a center for Shabbat celebration and Torah study. In this small, assimilated Jewish community we sought to keep the spirit of Shabbat alive and to reconnect Jews to its beauty.

When we decided to return to Seattle we worked on a new vision of Panim Hadashot built on the lessons learned from the ten years of experience teaching and modeling our Sabbath hospitality practice. Our vision was inspired by a variation of the ancient practice of Panim Hadashot, inviting new faces to celebrate with the newly married. The Talmud makes an exception to the requirement of a bringing a “new face” to a
Sheva Berachot celebration that takes place on Shabbat. Shabbat herself is considered by the tradition to be the New Face. This variant of the ancient Jewish wedding practice inspired a metaphor for the Sabbath that is captured in a poem by the great Spanish poet, Yehuda Halevy (1075 – 1141).

מה נעמה לי עת בין השמשות לראות פני שבת פנים חדשות ר יהודה הלוי
How lovely is the twilight to be able to gaze on the Sabbath, a New Face.
R. Yehudah Halevy, b 1075

Inspired by this poem and the many references in later Jewish literature to the Sabbath as Panim Hadashot, we found expression for a basic insight about the role of the Shabbat in our lives. Each Shabbat for us is a New Face, a new opportunity for connection between ourselves and other, between ourselves and God. The onset of every Sabbath is the opportunity for the renewal of love, the renewal of awareness, the renewal of purpose.

It is the embrace of this metaphor of Sabbath as a New Face that lead us to bring Panim Hadashot back to Seattle with an expanded vision and program. In the next blog entry, I will share this expanded vision and the approach to Jewish community that emerges from it.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
8/12/15