Rabbi Ivan Browner, UJUC Founder writes from Tokyo, Japan
In today’s day and age, we as a people find ourselves closer together in so many ways. Advances in Technology and engineering, allow me to type this blog, and instantly share it with people all over the world at the push of a button. Unfortunately, with all this newfound closeness, we also find the division between people further than ever before. With the same push of a button, religious, social and ideological differences deepen between people, families, and nations with devastating effects.
One can just turn on the news and see the underlying tension heating to a boiling point. It seems we are living in a tinderbox, and with the freedom granted to us by Technology; we all now have a large book of matches in hand.
Religions that were created by spiritual tenants of brotherhood and love have now become a platform to divide the world and its people into small subcultures. And each of these subcultures is all claiming to have the light of truth on their side as too why they are correct, and the others are not.
In Judaism, we see bitter infighting between many of its denominations on the fundamental and expressions of what it means to be a practicing Jew. The Ultra-Orthodox in Israel is denouncing less observant Jews as “Non-Jews.” The Women Of The Wall are fighting for acceptance and facing unbearable violent reactions when attempting to Worship at the Temple Mount. And it is not just found in Judaism, Every one of the world’s religions are fighting both within and without.
Because of this, many people feel lost or ungrounded in their approach to finding Closeness with Hashem within the context of their religious faith. For the most part, people are genuinely saddened, feeling as though their spiritual life is floating in a rough ocean and they are desperately looking for dry land and safety. They reach out to their religious leaders for a calming spirit and are met with dogmatic answers that are speaking at them and not to them. These responses reinforce their feelings of separation and leave them searching for a solution that resonates with their soul, not just the intellect.
Enter the UJUC –
A Group of Progressive Jewish Spiritual Leaders saw a need for this cycle to be broken and together formed the UJUC “Union of Jewish Universalist Communities.” Our vision is to build a bridge in our communities for people, of all faiths, backgrounds, creeds, and colors to cross the divide that has been facing people of faith. The UJUC welcomes all who desire a deepened sense of Spiritual Connectedness to God and our Fellow Man and Woman.
Although the Lens of the UJUC is from a Jewish perspective, the Tenants of Jewish Universalism do not demean but welcome another’s view on how they approach God and spirituality.
The Spiritual Leaders of the UJUC all have a different position in their respective communities. Some are Rabbi’s of a Brick and Mortar Synagogue, some Religious Teachers, some Cantors and Musical Directors, some Chaplains while others minister to their local group of congregants. The need of each community is undoubtedly unique, but all are tethered together in an eternal quest to know a broader purpose in life and closeness with the Divine.
In my home in Tokyo Japan, my UJUC Affiliated Chavurah has an active outreach focus on opening doors and find similarities of our Jewish Spiritual Path with many of the ancient Spiritual Traditions found in Asia.
My open door policy has led to a deep friendship and has facilitated many shafts of common ground with the Buddhist and Shinto Practitioners of Japan.
I have recently had the honor of speaking at a graduation commencement celebration of Zen Buddhist Priests, as they completed their formal training and received their Inka or “Teaching Certification” They welcomed me as a teacher of Judaism with open arms, as we discussed concepts of Jewish Meditation and the practice of Jewish Spirituality. We were able to find many points of connectedness between the practice of Zen and Spiritual Judaism. All of us that participated in this commencement celebration felt a bond of connection and love. And by the time I was done, the head teaching Monk called the Jews “Brothers of the Buddhist Community.”
It is with this spirit of community that the UJUC seeks to enrich the lives of all people, Jew, and non-Jews alike. Only together hand in hand can we continue empowering common ground between people of all faiths. Together is how we build a bridge, and a linked bridge is stronger than a single bridge. Together we will be stronger as a family, than as isolated individuals.
Please join us for this great work and help to build a bridge for the world. We are all “Tzelim Elokim” created within the Image of God. Now is the time we return to this fundamental truth and foster peace, understanding, and respect for all people. That is the mission of focus of the UJUC… and it has begun.