Rabbi Sharon BrousEarlier this week, I wrote about a photograph of a Lubavitch assembly. In response to a comment in our Flickr community, I was doing some research and happened upon a couple of lists about the top 50 most influential rabbis and the top 25 rabbis from the pulpit. Sharon Brous, the Conservative rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles, from our Days of Awe program was included in both. Not only is she young and vibrant, she’s also one of the few women on these lists. She’s worth paying attention to in the years to come.

Also, Ari (the aforementioned commenter) encouraged us to speak with some Orthodox Jewish voices for future programs. Perhaps Rabbi Schneerson would be a good biographical portrait to pursue. Any other suggestions? (Note, these don’t have to be rabbis.)

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I've enjoyed your last two comments Trent. At a recent training seminar, I made some new Israeli friends - and enjoyed a long night of discussion, over a (kosher) meal, hearing a Jewish perspective on Christian interpretation techniques of Hebrew texts - fascinating.
I'm not sure if my suggestions of Jewish voices are orthodox or not, but the two writers Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander are, for me, some of the most inventive and emotional writers currently - demonstrating beautifully the skill of telling the story from the middle, making the factual truth of the story subservient to the fabling truth that is more meaningful - I'd love to hear their theology of the Jewish story... but like I I said, I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.
As always, many thanks for the weekly wonder,
Beir Bua.

Padraig, thanks for the suggestions. They're great because getting the sort of writer who can talk about his art and process through the lens of his tradition could be wonderful radio, if they're talkers. I've only heard Foer speak in snippets and Englander not at all. I'll do some searching.

One thing we've learned: try to avoid doing interviews with authors while they're on book tour. Understandably, they are completely invested in their most recent endeavor -- its content, its promotion, its marketing and not to mention being on the road and doing loads of interviews -- that many have a hard time relaxing and reflecting. We'll try to get them in their down time. Cheers.

That makes real sense Trent - I can imagine that it'd be a too-narrow focus to talk to an author in the midst of a tour.
A while back, there was an SOF blog post that asked listeners for their suggestions on programmes... here, utterly unrelated to your original post, are some suggestions of mine - I love the art of these peoples' words - but, like you mentioned just there, the question is whether they're talkers as well as writers. Funny how one can automatically assume that this would be the case - I'm guessing it's not always so. Anyway - here it is, the votes of the Belfast Jury:
Leonard Cohen - on Judaism, Buddhism, Poetry and Age.
Annie Dillard - on whatever she wants to talk about.
Mary Oliver - on whatever she has to say.
Walter Wangerin - on story.
James Alison - on human dignity, sexuality, scripture and Girard.
That's it (for now!) - I regularly imagine what questions I'd ask folk if I had the chance - it usually ends up in lengthy conversations, like the taxi-driver the other night, where we spoke about identity, peacewalls, violence and the grey space of belonging, sitting in the car outside my house.
Cheers Trent...

Man, all great suggestions. I must admit that I'm not familiar with Walter Wangerin. If you haven't had a chance, get a recording of Phillip Glass' musical interpretation of Cohen's "Book of Longing." The back story is captivating on how they collaborated, and the more I listen to the recording, the more I'm smitten with it. But, it does have a sense of darkness to it in the beginning that appeals to my quiet nature.

Thanks for the suggestion of Philip Glass' interpretation of Cohen's book Trent - I'll certainly look it up. One of Cohen's earlier poetic works - The Book of Mercy - is, in my opinion, so good that it both hurts to read it, and it makes you hungry.

Walter Wangerin is a Lutheran minister, and also is (or at least was) writer in residence at Valpariso University - he's written fable, fiction, narrative, short stories, instruction and, more recently, put a "bible as a novel" project into print - which is poetic, playful and beautiful. A friend of mine heard him read some of his stories at the Greenbelt Arts festival in the early 90s and bought one of his books, which circulated amongst our community, and then began a lifelong love of his wordcraft for me.

I've been a long-time listener to Speaking of Faith since I discovered in on WYPR in Baltimore. I now listen online from Israel where I'm in rabbinical school. I suggest that you do a show about Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. He is arguably one of the greatest rabbis alive today, and unarguably one of the most prolific. He has translated the entire Gemara from Aramaic into Hebrew, making learning Talmud more accessible, and has written numerous books about chassidut and Jewish thought. He is also willing to be controversial, and make people upset by speaking his mind, something that is all too rare within the Orthodox community today.

Thanks for taking SOF along with you. Even though I'm a constant advocate and proselytizer of all things online, I'm still amazed that someone in Israel is listening to us out of St. Paul, Minnesota. Wow.

Thank you for your recommending Rabbi Steinsaltz. I am curious though. I don't know much about the inner workings of the Orthodox Jewish community. Could you tell me more about how this? How he's challenging for others?

Krista and I attended a Mary Oliver poetry reading last year in Minneapolis (this is a poet who could fill stadiums if she felt like it) in large part in order to get next to her and ask her to consider doing an interview. She smiled very sweetly as she said quite firmly that she doesn't do interviews. Drat!

Ah, darn. What a shame. Mary Oliver is a woman who makes the observation of the present moment a sacrament - amazing eyes, amazing seeing. Some friends have just finished taking a month to read through her book Thirst slowly - and we talked about it every Tuesday night. She is a woman who writes in all seasons, for all seasons.
I'm glad to hear that the idea was already floating around in the ether of the best folks in radio though. Thanks Kate,

There is physician/theologian who practices quietly in rural Indiana but whose essays and poems reflect the depth of pain in being Orthoprax yet fully modern. You might see some resonance in his work. Check him out at www.drungar.com.