Brent Chaim Spodek is the rabbi at Beacon Hebrew Alliance, a Jewish community that dates back to the 1920s. Rabbi Brent is a creative and highly engaged spiritual leader to the BHA family, and he has brought new energy and congregants to the synagogue since he moved here in 2010.
In this episode he talks about BHA’s response to Covid, among other topics.
“On a spiritual level in some ways nothing changes,” he says. “The particular forms we practice change. I mean, needless to say I had exactly zero classes in seminary on how to lead classes on Zoom. But the fundamental thing – how do you open your heart to the divine presence in the world you live in? – remains the same.”
All the same, the loss of in-person contact has been terrible, according to Rabbi Brent.
“Most people come to synagogue to connect to other people,” he says. “The funerals have been the worst. To not be able to hug somebody who is mourning. Adult children not being able to be present at their parents’ funeral. I don’t want to minimize the loss of what’s been incredibly valuable to the human experience.”
Even so, “Just like we pivoted as Judaism entered the West almost 200 years ago… we’re pivoting now as well. And we’re figuring out how do we do things digitally? How do we gather people in small outdoor ways?”
Rabbi Brent has an expansive view of what is required to practice Judaism. There are some in the BHA community who are not Jewish in the sense of lineage but have nevertheless engaged seriously with the practice.
“I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t be better off taking 25 hours and turning off all of their digital devices, refraining from commerce, not spending any money, just slowing down,” he says. “Lots of us living through Covid right now have experienced what it is to slow down. Shabbos is basically that once a week.”
Also in this episode: Brent’s awakening as a young man, using Judaism as a “laboratory,” Black Lives Matter.