Rabbis Without Borders envisions a world where Jewish wisdom is a source for wellbeing for anyone anywhere. We, the rabbis in the RWB Network, are committed to pushing the borders of what it means to be a rabbi today. We seek to share our Torah in pluralistic, innovative ways grounded by a sense of service to all.
Rabbis Without Borders is the first Rabbinic Network in America which spans denominations, geography and experience. Serving over 1.5 million people in the United States to date, RabbisWithout Borders is uniquely poised to serve the needs of today’s increasingly diverse American population.
We are in a new era where people are switching religious affiliations, blending their families in new ways, and mixing different rituals and belief systems in order to create meaning, purpose and community. Religious identities and communities are in flux. According to the 2011 American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans who cite no religious affiliation is 19% rising to 33% among people under 30. Americans no longer grow up and automatically belong to the synagogue or JCC of their parents. In fact 50% of Americans change their religious affiliation over the course of their lives.
By envisioning a world where Jewish wisdom is a source for wellbeing for anyone anywhere, the rabbis in the RWB Network are committed to serving people wherever they may be: affiliated or not, educated or not, with Jewish connections or not. These rabbis share their Torah in pluralistic, innovative ways grounded by a sense of service to all.
Impact of RWB
Founded in 2008, the impact of Rabbis Without Borders is being experienced across the country. By adopting a “beyond borders” approach to their rabbinates, the rabbis report that:
- 96% of RWB Fellows have strengthened and increased their comfort crossing denominational and institutional boundaries.
- 91% of RWB Fellows have created new programs in their synagogue/organization.
- 81% of RWB Fellows have seen an increase in participation in programs and use of services in their synagogue or organization.
Consciously adopting a pluralist approach and looking to serve all people anywhere has significantly increased these rabbis ability to share Jewish wisdom and practices. In addition, 80% of RWB Fellows are appearing in/writing in/teaching in new venues including launching their own blogs, writing for Huffington Post, local papers and appearing in both local and national media since participating in the RWB Network. They have been given the confidence to seek out new places to reach people. They are no longer bound by whatever they saw as the traditional boarders of their communities, and this in turn is growing the impact of Jewish wisdom on the world.
This ability to think expansively has also allowed the rabbis to be particularly innovative in their approach to teaching Judaism and bringing people together. RWB rabbis staff a full ten percent of the organizations listed in the 2014 Slingshot Guide to the Most Innovative Jewish Organizations in North America. No other group can claim such a large representation. These innovations are at the cutting edge of Jewish life in America today. You can read about their new ideas and creations here.
Building on our initial successes, RWB is entering a new phase in its growth. Given the high quality of these rabbis and the fact that 60% of the RWB Network rabbis are in touch with each other on a monthly basis, the opportunity to harness the power of this collective to transform American Jewish life is unprecedented. To realize this opportunity over the next several years RWB will:
- Find new avenues to serve the underserved, those looking for Jewish wisdom and spiritual fulfillment.
- Be a voice of pluralism in the public square, breaking down the polarizing issues dividing people in America today
- Foster Innovation to revolutionize Jewish life.
Rabbis Without Borders is transforming the rabbinate in America into a highly skilled innovative class of American religious leaders who use Judaism to help American Jews and all Americans flourish.
A Rabbi Without Borders embodies the following principles:
A Rabbi Without Borders is:
- Deeply pluralistic and strives to be aware of the partial truth in a view with which we deeply disagree.
- Sees/experiences Jewish tradition and personal faith as a public resource and expresses them as such – at least a significant part of the time.
- Recognizes that people are more important than ideology. Places other peoples questions before our own answers, without shying away from the answers to which we are passionately committed.
- Knows that being loving, nurturing, compassionate, is a crucial piece of our understanding of what it means to be right.
- Not worried about dilution or work from a narrative of erosion.
- Relatively optimistic and embracing of the future and of the new – be it technology, ideas, possibilities, innovations.
- Places limited importance on boundary questions and realizes that they are personal, more than policy issues. We all have and need boundaries but they exist because of our need, not because of some absolute and independent necessity.
- Embraces doubt and questions alongside answers and certainty. Appreciate that neither should ever hold sway over the other – at least not for very long, and not without revisiting the conclusion.
- Privileges the question of to what we might contribute, and how to be innovative, as opposed to what we must resist or correct.
- Personally evolving and experiences that evolution as a coherent process, not as a betrayal of past conclusions. Coherence emerges from something larger than observable constancy.
Who We Are
Rabbi Tsafi Lev is the Rabbis Without Boarders West Coast Coordinator. He is an accomplished speaker and educator. Ordained at JTS, Tsafi gained over a decade of pulpit experience before moving full-time into the true love of his rabbinate, teaching. Part of the founding faculty of New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, CA, Tsafi has proudly helped shape the Jewish curriculum of this innovative pluralistic school. He brings his passion for Judaism and teaching to the upcoming generation of Jewish educators as a long time Adjunct Lecturer in Bible and Jewish Philosophy for the Fingerhut School of Education Master of Arts in Education program at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Lev is also an accomplished writer and swimmer. In 2011 he completed the Write a Novel in a Month Challenge as well as swim the San Francisco Bay, from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf, earning 14th place in a competition of “the world’s fasted open water swimmers.” To commemorate that experience he now gets automatic monthly pulls of Aquaman at his local comic book store.