The term “Kabbalah” has become part of popular culture in the US and there are many organizations and teachers offering courses and study opportunities. Many different claims are made in regards to the goals and benefits of such study. In this conversation cult expert Steven Hassan (freedomofmind.com) asks Hebrew College teachers, rabbis Arthur Green, Nehemia Polen and Ebn Leader to explain the principles that can help keep Kabbalah study from becoming cult-like and destructive.
Rabbi Art Green
Rector, Rabbinical School
Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion
Rabbinic Ordination, Jewish Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Brandeis University
Art Green, a nationally recognized historian of Jewish religion and a theologian, is the founding dean of Hebrew College's Rabbinical School and now serves as its rector. He has lectured widely and taught Jewish mysticism, Hasidism and theology to several generations of students at the University of Pennsylvania; the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where he served as both dean and president; Brandeis University; and Hebrew College. Green is the founder of Havurat Shalom, an egalitarian Jewish communityin Somerville, Mass., and remains a leading independent figure in the Jewish renewal movement. He is the author of more than a dozen books; his most recent is "Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition," (Yale University Press, 2010). Green has been named to Newsweek and The Daily Beast's list of Top 50 Influential Rabbis in America every year since 2008.
Rabbi Nehemia Polen
Professor of Jewish Thought
Rabbinic Ordination, Ner Israel Rabbinical College
Ph.D., Boston University
Nehemia Polen is a leading expert in Hasidism and Jewish thought. A widely published author, his books include "The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto" (Jason Aronson Inc., first ed., 1977); "The Rebbe's Daughter" (Jewish Publication Society, 2002), based on Polen's research as a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and recipient of a National Jewish Book Award; and "Filling Words With Light: Hasidic and Mystical Reflections on Jewish Prayer" (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2004), written with Lawrence Kushner. Polen holds a doctorate from Boston University, where he studied with and served as a teaching fellow for Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. Prior to his career in Jewish academia, Polen served for 23 years as a congregational rabbi.
Rabbi Ebn Leader
Faculty, Rabbinical School
Rabbinic Ordination, Private
Ebn Leader grew up in Jerusalem and was a "talmid" (student-disciple) of Rabbi David Hartman, where he learned Talmud, and of Amos Hetz, where he studied movement and movement notation. He is currently a talmid of Hebrew College Rector Art Green, from whom he has received semicha. Leader has a growing international reputation as a Jewish spiritual teacher in the neo-Hasidic tradition and is an authority on Jewish prayer. He is co-editor, with Rabbi Or Rose, of "God in All Moments: Mystical and Practical Wisdom From Hasidic Masters" (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011).
For more information, go to hebrewcollege.edu