Crossing the Boundary -Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths
Crossing the Boundary focuses on the lives and thoughts of fourteen spiritual teachers who share being born and raised as Jews, choosing a different spiritual way from that of their families, and becoming teachers in their chosen path. The deeper themes of the book call us to look at the nature of tribal identity itself and the many forms of spiritual life on Earth today.
Spiritual practices bring us to question and release all forms of ego identification, including ethnic identity. Here are the words of one of the world’s most respected spiritual teachers, Krishnamurti:
“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”
Yet, in my own life, as I sought to “let go,” I found that my Jewish ancestry and values still informed much of who I am and how I express myself. My undeniable connection to the Jewish people, and perhaps a core expression of my Jewishness itself, leads me to bring my meditations and reflections on these questions back to “my people” and to do so in a way that is a message for all people. In doing so, I interviewed these spiritual teachers who shared my journey across the boundary of Jewish identity.
Anyone observing the contemporary spiritual scene, especially in the U.S., will recognize the large number of Jewish men and women who are active and often leaders of many other faiths or spiritual paths. An aspect of the book’s study is the influence of Jewish upbringing or ancestral connections on the adopted spiritual community. Are there specifically Jewish values and orientations that when blended with different approaches to life, bring about something new. As well, is there an influence back into the Jewish community that comes from this crossover.
Spiritual teachings aim to guide all humans towards liberation from confusion and ignorance, towards greater awareness and compassion. However, even in spiritual communities, there are often distorted understandings that preserve separative tendencies and amplify triumphalist attitudes about their particular path. In my search for teachers to interview, I deliberately sought out those who embodied and could articulate the universal aspects of their spiritual understandings and share them.
We are walking on the precipice of a massive catastrophe coming about due to human ignorance and greed and masked by the ethnocentric blinders that pit us against each other. It is my hope that the stories and wisdom of the “heretics” gathered in this book provide keys for our collective awakening, and lead us towards not only tolerance for others, but eagerness to encounter and learn from the ways of all peoples.
Crossing the Boundary is now a completed book and seeking publication. The pages in this blog under the heading “People of the Book,” include short passages from the chapters in the book that focus on the spiritual teachers featured. Each of the chapters are drawn from my personal interviews with them and include relevant biographical information, discussions about the nature of Jewish identity and a wide range of topics pertaining to the spiritual life.