Shomer Shalom – A Jewish Path of Nonviolence

I’m proud to say that the Founder’s Gathering of Shomer Shalom – a new organization promoting a Jewish path of nonviolence – will take place this weekend at JRC from May 15-18. This important new effort was created by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb (above), who has been “walking the peace walk” Jewishly for decades now. Shomer Shalom is an attempt to find a new Jewish grounding for the work of nonviolence on a personal as well as communal level.

Individually, members of Shomer Shalom will be committed to living a nonviolent Jewish life and are encouraged to participate in nonviolence organizations as Jews and to participate in Jewish organizations as practitioners of nonviolence. Collectively, Shomer Shalom will offer retreats and programs dedicated to nurturing the nonviolent faith of its members. It will also produce and distribute educational and liturgical materials rooted in Jewish nonviolent traditions.

I have recently joined Shomer Shalom’s “Council of Elders” (first time I’ve taken on such a venerable title!) and am excited about the prospects for a new Jewish organization whose time I believe has truly come. The Shomer Shalom website can give you more information about the schedule of the Founder’s Gathering as well as Shomer Shalom’s Organizational Principles.

Rabbi Lynn is currently leading a Fellowship of Reconciliation tour in Iran (a remarkable trip that was recently profiled in the Jerusalem Post) and will undoubtedly have much to share at the gathering this weekend. Before she left, she and I corresponded with one another about Shomer Shalom and it’s spiritual/ideological assumptions. Here is an excerpt from one of her e-mails to me – it should give you some idea about the depth of her passion and conviction:

In the case of war, I believe a Shomer Shalom makes a calculation that somebody has to stand for peace, has to be that person in the midst of conflict that both sides can turn to as a party who refuses to engage in harmful conflict. And it is true that a person who embraces nonviolence as a way of life rejects solutions that intentionally cause harm because how do we actually know what those certain terrible circumstances actually are in which violence might be redemptive? Who is to judge?

The rabbis taught, once the arrow leaves the bow, not even the mightiest warrior can bring it back. We in fact have no control over the violence we unleash. What we do know, however, is that violence once unleashed sets off a cycle of revenge that ravages future generations. There are so many examples of this that I do not think anyone can truthfully make an argument that violence ever redeemed us.

I hope to see many of you at the Founder’s Gathering.

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