Naomi Levy's Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living jumped out at me from the library shelf.
Of course, the first four words of the title were all I saw, on the book's spine, prompting me to pull it out for a look. When I saw the subtitle, it was going in my bag.
Levy had been in the first class of women admitted to a Conservative seminary. She was a rising star in the rabbinical world, and had a happy marriage and two children. Then, the terrible news came: a doctor told her that her five-year-old daughter had a degenerative and ultimately fatal disease. Levy was familiar with the disease and its end effects, and immediately her life became about second opinions (and third, fourth, etc.), doctor visits, therapies, and treatments. As she walked through fear and despair, she wondered where her career had gone.
The book chronicles her life with her family, with her study partner, with her faith. It is hopeful, beautiful, and inspiring in very many ways, and it is most highly recommended.
What caught my attention about it as a book for a RevGal audience, though, is this: After a long time away from a formal clergy role, Levy is talking with some friends about what she misses about it. She says,
"I guess what I miss most is leading people in prayer on Friday as the sun is setting and the Sabbath comes. It's magic. I miss spreading that magic."(Friend Norma asks) "If you could lead a service today, what would it look like?"...I thought about all the Jews I knew who were turned off by Judaism. Jews who walked away from prayer life because they found Judaism spiritually unfulfilling. Jews who walked away from prayer because they were raised on God-as-Superman and not on The God Who Sees Me. I said, "It would be a place for those who are searching for spiritual nourishment, who want to be transformed. I would write a whole new English translation of the Hebrew services. There would be a band, lots of uplifting music."
There follows a series of amazing coincidences, or God-moments. A church is found to welcome the new congregation for its meetings; a group forms to vision the new movement.
"We talked about a new approach to Jewish life. 'A Soulful Community of Prayer in Action' became our motto. We wanted to revive deep spirituality, and we wanted to link it with social justice, with actions that can heal our world. Every prayer service would be linked to a day of action."
What emerged was Nashuva, which means "We Shall Return." It has become an immensely successful synagogue in Los Angeles. One Friday a month, the community gathers for Sabbath service; one Saturday a month, for community service.
I'm one of those who is still (!) working on grasping what "Emergent Church" means. I think I have a better understanding of it now, from having read of this Jewish version of our shared cultural groundswell. We are not (necessarily) emerging from something bad...but we are definitely emerging into something new. What will it be?