“Biblical Hebrew is all made out of verbs…it all starts in the doing and goes back to the doing. Why isn’t there a blessing for giving tzedaka to the poor? By the time you say the blessing, the man will die of hunger… spirituality cannot just be in what you think and what you feel – it has to be invested in what you do.” -Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan
Where are the intersections between Jewish spiritual practice and social action? Is there a connection between serving God and serving humanity?
Rabbi Micha Odenheimer
Micha is the founder and director of Tevel B’tzedek, created in 2007. Micha was born in Berkley, California. He received his B.A. from Yale University, Cum Laude, in 1980. In 1984, Micha received his rabbinic ordination and was a student and close friend of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. In 1988 Micha immigrated to Israel and ever since has been working in social activism in Israeli society, and has lectured and written extensively on Judaism and social justice. A prolific journalist, Micha has reported on poverty, globalization and human rights from around the world including Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Burma, Haiti, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia, and written for the Washington Post, The Guardian, The London Times, The Jerusalem Report and Haaretz. In 1998, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee granted Micha the “Boris Smolar Prize,” based on his work covering of Ethiopian Jewry. Micha also founded the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jewry, which was, and remains to this day, one of the most instrumental and valued organizations dealing with the absorption of Ethiopian immigration to Israel. Micha received the 2011 Klegg Prize from Hebrew University.
Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan
Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan was born in Jerusalem. She grew up in a Zionist Orthodox family and is a descendent of a long line of Lithuanian Rabbis on her mother’s side. She studied law at the Hebrew University but decided not to work in the field – instead she immersed herself in Torah studies at the Hartman and Pardes Institutes in Jerusalem. Always a spiritual seeker, Ruth became involved in interfaith activities that led her to representing Judaism at various international forums as well as being amongst the first Israelis to travel and study in India and Nepal. In the late Eighties she married Dr. Michael Kagan, author of the Holistic Haggadah, and together they were part of the first wave of New Age activists in Israel. Ruth and Michael’s main interest became the renewal of Judaism and together they taught classes and workshops in Israel and around the world. In the Nineties Ruth met Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement, and became one of his closest students. Reb Zalman initiated her into a rabbinical ordination path. In 2003 Ruth received smicha (rabbinical ordination) from Reb Zalman through the Aleph Rabbinical Seminary, of which she is now a member of the faculty. In 2006 she published, together with Reb Zalman, “Jewish Renewal – Integrating Heart and World” (Kirvat Elohim, Yediot Achronot) the first book in Hebrew describing the principles and practice of Jewish Renewal for the Israeli readership. Reb Ruth teaches classes and workshops in Jewish Spirituality in Israel and around the world . She is the founder and spiritual leader of Nava Tehila She also works as a Mashpiah – spiritual director – with individuals who seek to build a more intimate relationship with the Divine. Reb Ruth is a mother of four and a proud grandmother of two.