Arthur Waskow Papers
As a scholar, author, and activist, Rabbi Arthur Waskow (1933-) has been a leading figure in American Jewish life since 1969 when he published his groundbreaking work, The Freedom Seder, which infused the traditional Passover meal with contemporary issues of civil rights, social justice, and nonviolence. Waskow integrated the knowledge and experience he gained in Washington, D.C., where he worked from 1959 to 1982 on policy issues such as civil rights, nuclear disarmament, nonviolence, renewable energy, and similar topics, to help infuse an activist spirit into the Jewish Renewal movement. In addition to writing numerous books on Judaism, in which he developed his theology of eco-Judaism, Waskow founded founded a Havurah community in 1971, helped found the Board of the National Havurah Committee in 1978, and served as editor of the journal Menorah: Sparks of Jewish Renewal, which later became New Menorah. In 1983 he founded the Shalom Center, an organization that works to promote peace in the middle east, interfaith dialogues, and interfaith responses to global climate change. In 1993, he and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi merged the Shalom Center with the P’nai Or organization to create ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, though, in 2005, The Shalom Center became an independent entity once again. In 1995, after five years of study, Waskow was ordained as a rabbi through ALEPH, and has continued in this capacity to teach theology and rabbinics at numerous colleges and institutes, spreading his visions of eco-Judaism and of peace between Israel and Palestine.
Rabbi Waskow was a featured speaker at the CU Boulder Program in Jewish Studies 2015 Embodied Judaism Symposium: Freedom Seder: American Judaism and Social Justice.
From 1959 to 1961, Waskow worked on disarmament and civil-rights issues as a legislative assistant for Congressman Robert Kastenmeier of Wisconsin. From 1961 to 1963, he was a Senior Fellow of the Peace Research Institute, working on issues of world disarmament and critically analyzing official approaches to nuclear deterrence and civil defense. In 1963 Waskow joined in founding the Institute for Policy Studies and was a Fellow there until 1977. From 1977 to 1982, he served as a Fellow of the Public Resource Center in Washington, D.C., where he led a long-term research project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, on economic, environmental, technological, and public-policy aspects of community-based generation and use of renewable energy and energy conservation.
Waskow's participation in the Jewish Renewal movement began in 1969 with his writing of The Freedom Seder, a Passover haggadah that wove together the traditional Passover text with passages from Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Allen Ginsberg, Nat Turner, Henry David Thoreau, Emanuel Ringelblum of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt, and other exemplars of liberation in several cultures and societies. It was the first Passover Haggadah to address contemporary issues and reach out beyond the Jewish community in this way.
Waskow continued as a writer, teacher, and organizer in the movement to renew Judaism. Among other books and hundreds of articles, he wrote Godwrestling (1978); Seasons of Our Joy (1982); and These Holy Sparks: The Rebirth of the Jewish People (1983). In 1978 he joined in founding and became a member of the Board of the National Havurah Committee. He founded the journal Menorah: Sparks of Jewish Renewal in 1981 which was renamed New Menorah in 1985 and became the quarterly journal of P'nai Or Religious Fellowship and later of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, with Waskow continuing as editor.
In 1982, Waskow moved to Philadelphia, to become a member of the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). From 1985 to 1987, he was a member of the liturgical committee of the P'nai Or Religious Fellowship that created Or Chadash /New Light: A New Resource for Sabbath Prayer and Celebration, and has continued to write a number of prayers and celebratory practices for Sabbath and festival use. In 1983, working closely with President Ira Silverman of RRC, Waskow founded The Shalom Center to inspire and consolidate Jewish thought and action in response to the dangers of the nuclear arms race and later of other global environmental threats. In 1993, he and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi merged the Shalom Center with the P’nai Or organization to create ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and in 1995, after five years of study, he was ordained as a rabbi through ALEPH.
In 2005, the Shalom Center became once more an independent body with its own transdenominational board.
Waskow continues to teach theology and rabbinics at numerous colleges and institutes, spreading his visions of eco-Judaism and of peace between Israel and Palestine.
Gift of Rabbi Arthur Waskow in 2013.